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Impressionism is a 19th-century art movement that originated with a group of Paris-based artists whose independent exhibitions brought them to prominence during the 1870s and 1880s. Impressionist painting characteristics include relatively small, thin, yet visible brush strokes, open composition, emphasis on accurate depiction of light in its changing qualities (often accentuating the effects of the passage of time), ordinary subject matter, inclusion of movement as a crucial element of human perception and experience, and unusual visual angles.

    Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1876

Impressionism in quotes

Sorted chronologically, by date of the quote
Charles François Daubigny, 1855: 'Banks of the Seine', oil-painting
Eugène Boudin, c. 1858: 'Port of Honfleur', oil on panel
Johan Barthold Jongkind, 1863: 'Beach of Ste. Adresse' near Le Havre, watercolor on paper
Frédéric Bazille, 1867: near Montpellier
Frédéric Bazille, 1868: 'Family Reunion'
Camille Pissarro, 1868: 'A small Factory'
Claude Monet, 1869: 'La Grenouillére'
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1872: 'Pont-Neuf'
Claude Monet, 1872: 'View to the plain of Argenteuil'
Edgar Degas, 1873: ballet exercise
Claude Monet, 1873: 'Boulevard des Capucines'
Paul Cezanne, 1873: 'Painter at work', - probably Camille Pissarro his guide then -, oil on canvas
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1876: 'Woman in Black'
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1877: 'Le Moulin de la Galette'
Claude Monet, 1877: 'Arrival of the Normandy Train, Gare Saint-Lazare', oil on canvas
Édouard Manet, 1878: 'The Rue Mosnier with Flags'
Claude Monet, 1877-80: 'Boat on the Epte'
Claude Monet, 1883: 'Wild Sea near Etretat, oil-painting
Paul Cezanne, 1885: 'The Gulf of Marseilles Seen from L'Estaque', oil-painting
Camille Pissarro, 1888: 'Apple Harvest'
Claude Monet, 1889: 'Grainstack at Giverny'
Camille Pissarro, 1894: 'The village Knocke'
Camille Pissarro, 1888: 'Bath Road', Chiswick, oil on canvas
Camille Pissarro, 1891: 'Willows in winter, Eragny', oil-painting
Claude Monet, 1900-1905: 'House on a Hill', oil-painting
Claude Monet, 1905: 'Nymphéas', oil on canvas
Robert Delaunay, 1906-07: 'Paysage au disque', oil on canvas




  • Nature is richer than I represent it.. .Nature is so beautiful that when I am not tortured by poverty I am tortured by her splendor. How fortunate we are to be able to see and admire the glories of the sky and earth; if only I could be content just to admire them. But there is always the torment of struggling to reproduce them, the impossibility of creating anything within the narrow limits of painting.
    • Eugène Boudin, March 1854 Journal entry; as cited in Eugène Boudin, G. Jean-Aubrey & Robert Schmit, Greenwich, New York graphic society, 1968, p. 24
  • Beauty in art is truth bathed in an impression received from nature. I am struck upon seeing a certain place. While I strive for a conscientious imitation, I yet never for an instant lose the emotion that has taken hold of me. Reality is one part of art; feeling completes it.. .Before any site and any object, abandon yourself to your first impression. If you have really been touched, you will convey to others the sincerity of your emotion.
    • Corot (c. 1856) in his 'Notebooks'; as quoted in Artists on Art – from the 14th – 20th centuries, ed. Robert Goldwater and Marco Treves; Pantheon Books, 1972, London, p. 241
  • I have another painting finished, a view near Rotterdam, and then another in process, and very far along. I made them from nature, that is to say I made watercolors [in open air], after which I made my [oil]-paintings.
    • Johan Jongkind, in a letter to his Dutch friend Eugène Smits, 22 Nov. 1856; as quoted in Master Drawings from the Yale University Art Gallery, by Suzanne Boorsch, John Marciari; Yale University. Art Gallery, p. 246 - note 7
  • To swim in the open sky. To achieve the tenderness of clouds. To suspend these masses in the distance, very far away in the grey mist, make the blue explode. I feel all this coming, dawning in my intentions. What joy and what torment! If the bottom were still, perhaps I would never reach these depths. Did they do better in the past? Did the Dutch achieve the poetry of clouds I seek? That tenderness of the sky which even extends to admiration, to worship: it is no exaggeration.
  • I am settled in France, and as for the rest of my history as a painter, it is bound up with the impressionistic group.
    • Camille Pissarro, circa 1856; as cited in Brush and Pencil, Vol. XIII, no. 6 , article: 'Camille Pissarro' Impressionist'; by Henry G Stephens, March, 1904, p. 412-13
    • quote, after Pissarro's stay of three year without success in Venezuela, and returning back to Paris / the word 'Impressionism' didn't exist yet. Pissarro refers here to a much broader group of painters who expressed their 'impressions' of the landscape in the open air, like also the Barbizon-painters practiced partly
  • The whole landscape lies behind the transparent gauze of the fog that now rises, drawn upwards by the sun, and as it rises, reveals the silver-spangled river, the fields, the cottages, the further scene. At last one can discern all that one could only guess at before.. .The sun is up! There is a peasant at the end of the field, with his wagon drawn by a yoke of oxen.. .Everything is bursting into life, sparkling in the full light – light, which as yet is still soft and golden. The background, simple in line and harmonious in colour, melts into the infinite expanse of sky, through the bluish, misty atmosphere. The flowers raise their heads the birds flutter hither and thither.. .The little rounded willows on the bank of the stream look like birds spreading their tails. It's adorable! And one paints! And paints!
    • Corot, 1857; his description of a morning in Switzerland, Château de Gruyères; as cited in Letters of the great artists – from Blake to Pollock, Richard Friedenthal, Thames and Hudson, London, 1963
  • I heard the voices of the trees; the surprises of their movements. Their varieties of form and even their peculiarity of attraction toward the light had suddenly revealed to me the language of the forest. All that world of flora lived as mutes, whose signs I divined, whose passions I discovered. I wished to converse with them and to be able to say to myself, through that other language, painting, that I had put my finger upon the secret of their grandeur.
    • Théodore Rousseau and Alfred Sensier, 1850's discussion; cited in Barbizon days, Millet-Corot-Rousseau-Barye by Charles Sprague Smith, A. Wessels Company, New York, July 1902, p. 147
    • Alfred Sensier frequently visited the studio of Th. Rousseau (and Millet) and wrote later a book about both artists


  • It seems to me, when I see nature, that I see it ready made, completely written — but then, try to do it! All this proves that one must think of nothing but them [impressions]; it is by dint of observation and reflection that one makes discoveries.
    • Claude Monet, July 15, 1864 letter to Frédéric Bazille from Honfleur; as cited in: Joyce Medina (1995) Cezanne and Modernism: The Poetics of Painting. p. 60
  • It is beautiful here [in Etretat, Normandy], my friend; every day I discover even more beautiful things. It is intoxicating me, and I want to paint it all - my head is bursting.. .I want to fight, scratch it off, start again, because I start to see and understand. I seems to me as if I can see nature and I can catch it all.. is by observation and reflection that I discover how. That is what we are working on, continuously..
    • Claude Monet, 1864; letter to his friend Frédéric Bazille; as quoted in Monet's landschappen Vivian Rusell; Icob, Alphen aan de Rijn, The Netherlands 2010, p. 12
  • There at the moment in Honfleur... Boudin and Jongkind are here; we get on marvellously. There's lots to be learned and nature begins to grow beautiful.. .I shall tell you I'm sending a flower picture to the exhibition at Rouen; there are very beautiful flowers at present.
    • Claude Monet, 1864, letter to Frédéric Bazille; As cited in: Edward B. Henning, Cleveland Museum of Art. Creativity in art and science, 1860-1960. (1987), p. 95
  • The sun allowed me only four days of work. Today it is beautiful and I am about to go out.. .I have begun three or four landscapes of the area around Aigues-Mortes. In my large canvas 'The Ramparts at Aigues-Mortes', I am going to do the walls of the city, reflected in a pond at sunset. This will be a very simple painting, which should not take long to do. Nevertheless I would need at least eight beautiful days. I hope that everything will be finished by the 12th [of June, 1867]
    • Frédéric Bazille, end of May, 1867, note in letter to his mother; as quoted in Impressionism, Gary Tinterow, Henri Loyrette; Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1994, p. 332
  • Don't look to closely at Corot's figures.. ..his half-finished manner has at least the merit of producing a harmonious ensemble and a striking impression. Instead of analysing a feature one feels an impression.
    • Thoré-Bürger, Salons de Théophile Thoré (Paris, 1868); as quoted in The Academy and French painting, Boime, p. 96; as quoted by Margaret Sehnan in Berthe Morisot, the first lady of Impressionism; Sutton Publishing, 1996 - (ISBN 0 7509 2339 3), p. 46
  • In Paris one is too preoccupied by what one sees and what one hears, however strong one is; what I am doing here has, I think, the merit of not resembling anyone, because it is simply the expression of what I myself have experienced.
    • Claude Monet, December 1868 letter to Frédéric Bazille from Etretat; As cited in: Mary Tompkins Lewis (2007) Critical Readings in Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. p. 83
  • The tall fellow Bazille has done something I find quite fine: a young girl in a very light dress in the shadow of a tree beyond which one sees a town. There is a good deal of light, sunlight, He is trying to do what we [Berthe and her sister Edma [Morisot] both painted, then] have so often tried to bring off: to paint a figure in the open air. This time I think he has succeed.
    • Berthe Morisot, 1869 remark to her sister Edma, after visiting the Salon of Paris; as quoted in The history of Impressionism by John Rewald, (Fourth edition), Museum of Modern Art, 1974, New York p. 643
  • You can do plain-air painting indoors, [remark to his pupil then, Berthe Morisot ] by painting white in the morning, lilac during the day and orange tones in the evening.
    • Edouard Manet, c. 1869; recorded by Berthe Morisot; as cited in Manet by Himself, ed. Juliet Wilson Bareau Little Brown 2000, London; p. 303
    • Manet was not an outdoor-painter; he was in that in company of Degas who hated plain-air painting
  • Corot spoiled the 'étude' [sketch] we admired so much when we saw it at his home, by redoing it in the studio.
    • Berthe Morisot, 1869 letter of criticism to her sister Edma; taken from Morisot's Correspondence, p. 32; as quoted by Margaret Sehnan in Berthe Morisot, the first lady of Impressionism; Sutton Publishing, 1996 - (ISBN 0 7509 2339 3), p. 86
    • The sisters Morisot had learned a lot of Corot, but Berthe take distance from 'in-door finishing an out-door sketch'
  • I have a dream a picture of the bathing spot at the Grenouillere, for which I've made a few poor sketches, but it is a dream. Renoir, who has just spent two months here, also wants to do this painting.
    • Claude Monet, letter to Frédéric Bazille, 25 September, 1869; as cited in: Bonafoux (1986, 72), cited in Michael P. Farrell (2003) Collaborative Circles: Friendship Dynamics and Creative Work. p. 42


  • I have almost finished a large landscape [painting 'Landscape by the Lez River' - [around Montpellier].. ..I am completely alone on the country; my cousins and my brother are at the resort. My father and mother are living in town; this solitude pleases me enormously; it makes me work a lot and read a lot.
    • Frédéric Bazille, 2 August 1870 letter to Maître; as quoted in Impressionnism, Gary Tinterow, Henri Loyrette; Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1994, p. 338
    • this work is Bazille's last painting and largest known landscape; he started it c. June 1870 and finished it 2 August, just before he left 16 August 1870, to join the third regiment of Zouaves; he died soon
  • Lighten your palette.. [remark to the younger [ Paul Cezanne circa 1873, to encourage him to start using bright colors], ..paint only with the three primary colours and their derivatives.
    • Camille Pissarro (c. 1873), Cezanne his Life and Art, Jack Linssey, - Evelyn, Adams and Mackay, London, 1969, p. 154-55
  • I do not like this place [ Saint-Jean-de-Luz, a small fishing-village on the Spanish border]. I find it arid and dried up. The sea here is ugly. It is either all blue - I hate it like that - or dark and dull. ...There is constant sun, good weather all the time, the ocean like a slab of slate - there is nothing less picturesque than this combination.
    • Berthe Morisot, Summer 1873 letter to her sister, Edma_Morisot, on the weather; as quoted in The Correspondence of Berthe Morisot, with her family and friends, Denish Rouart - newly introduced by Kathleen Adler and Tamer Garb; Camden Press London 1986, p. 43.
  • A group of painters assembled in my home, read with pleasure the article you published in 'L'Avenir national'. We are all very pleased to see you defend ideas which are also ours, and we hope that, as you say, 'L'Avenir national' will kindly lend us its support when the Society we are in the process of forming is finally established.
    • Claude Monet, 1873 letter to Paul Alexis, May 1873; as quoted in Sue Roe, The Private Lives of the Impressionists, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2006, p. 120
    • the coming impressionists are starting to form a new artist-group, to organize an independent and concurrent exhibition as an alternative exhibition for the official yearly (rather classical) Paris Salon, where their paintings were not accepted
  • The common view that brings these artists together in a group and makes of them a collective force within our disintegrating age is their determination not to aim for perfection, but to be satisfied with a certain general aspect. Once the impression is captured, they declare their role finished. The term Japanese, which was given them first, made no sense. If one wishes to characterize and explain them with a single word, then one would have to coin the word impressionists. They are impressionists in the sense that they paint not landscapes but rather the sensation produced by the landscape. The word itself [impression] has entered their vocabulary; it is not a landscape but instead an impression that one calls the 'Sunrise' by Mr. Monet. Thus they take leave of reality and enter the realms of idealism.
    • J. Castagnary (29 April 1874), 'Exposition du Boulevard des Capucines – Les Impressionistes', in Le Siècle, p. 3; as partly quoted in Impressionism: A Centenary Exhibition, Anne Distel, Michel Hoog, Charles S. Moffett, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, (New York, N.Y.) 1975, p. 153
  • What are we supposed to do [reacting furiously on art-critic J. Castagnary who proclaimed the so-called new School of Impressionism, 1874] about these stupid literary people who will never understand that painting is a craft! You make it with materials, not ideas! The ideas come afterwards, when the painting is finished.
    • Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1874; as cited in The private lives of the Impressionists Sue Roe, Harper-Collins Publishers, New York, 2006, p. 127
  • ..the glimpse of the dome of St. Paul's through the forest of yellow masts, the whole thing bathed in a golden haze.
    • Berthe Morisot, 1875 letter to her sister Edma, from London August 1875; as cited in The Correspondence of Berthe Morisot, with her family and friends Denish Rouart - newly introduced by Kathleen Adler and Tamer Garb; Camden Press London 198, p. 105
    • Berthe is describing the embankment of river Thames
  • My work is going badly.. is always the same story: I don't know where to start. I made an attempt in a field, but the moment I had set up my easel more than fifty boys and girls were swarming about me, shouting and gesticulating. On a boat one has another kind of difficulty. Everything sways, there is an infernal lap of water; one has the sun and the wind to cope with; the boats change position every minute, etc.. .The view from my window is pretty to look at, but not to paint. Views from above are almost always incomprehensible; as a result of all this I am not doing much..
    • Berthe Morisot, 1875 letter to her sister Edma from the Isle of Wight, Summer 1875; as cited in Berthe Morisot, by Kathleen Adler and Tamar Garb; Phaidon Press Limited, 1987, p. 65
  • If possible, come and take care of the placing [for the first Impressionist painting show of Spring 1876, in the art-gallery of Durand-Ruel in Paris, with nineteen pictures of Berthe Morisot]. We are planning to hang the works of each painter in the group together, separating them from any others as much as possible.. ..please, do come and direct this.
    • Edgar Degas, 1876 letter to Berthe Morisot, Spring 1876; as cited in The Private Lives of the Impressionists, by Sue Roe; Harper Collins Publishers, New York, 2006, pp. 152-155
    • Degas was preparing the first Impressionist Exhibition, 1876; Bethe Morisot would participate with c. 17 paintings!
  • If you read some of the Parisian newspapers, among others the 'Figaro', so beloved of the right-thinking public, you must have learned that I am part of a group of artists [The Impressionists!] who opened a private exhibition [in the art-gallery of Durand-Ruel in Paris, April 1876]. You must also have seen what favour this exhibition enjoys in the eyes of these gentlemen [Berthe refers to the critical articles in Paris with all their mockery about her works]. On the other hand, we have been praised in the radical newspaper, but you don't read those [her aunts]! Well, at least we are getting attention, and we have enough self-esteem not to care. My brother-in-law Edouard Manet is not with us [Manet didn't participate in this first Impressionist show, initiated by Degas ]. Speaking of success, he [Manet] has just been rejected by the Salon; he, too, is perfectly good-humored about his failure.
    • Berthe Morisot, 1876 letter to her aunts; as cited in The Private Lives of the Impressionists, Sue Roe; Harper Collins Publishers, New York, 2006, p. 155
    • Berthe wrote this letter after the second Impressionist exhibition, April 1876, where she was participating with 19 pictures (Monet with 18!). Degas had invited her to participate, against the will of Manet
  • The innocent passer-by attracted by the bunting outside [of Durand Ruel's exhibition (in Rue Le Peletier in Paris) of the 'Impressionists: Exposition de Peinture', 1876] goes in to have a look. But what cruel spectacle meets his terrified gaze! Here, five or six lunatics deranged by ambition – one of them a woman [ Berthe Morisot ] – have put together an exhibition of their work.. .These self-styled artists call themselves 'intransigents' [= uncompromising people]. They take canvas, paint and brushes, splash on a few daubs of color here and there at random, then sign the result. The inmates of the Ville-Evrard Asylum behave in much the same way.. .Try telling M. Pissarro that trees are not purple, or the sky the colour of butter; that the things he paints cannot actually be seen anywhere in nature.. ..try to explain to M. Renoir that a woman’s torso is not a rotten mass of flesh, with violet-toned green spots all over it, indicating a corpse in the final stage of decay.
    • Albert Wolff (1876), Paris paper 'Figaro', 1876, criticizing the second Impressionist exhibition: 'Salon des Refugées'; as quoted in The private lives of the Impressionists, Sue Roe, Harpen Collins Publishers, New York 2006, p. 154
  • ..the beautiful [to the Impressionists] is what the supernatural is to the Positivists – a metaphysical notion which can only get one into a muddle, and is to be severely let alone. Let it alone, they say, and it will come at its own pleasure; the painter's proper field is the actual, an to give a vivid impression of how a thing happens to look, at a particular moment, is the essence of this vision.
    • Henry James (1876) 'New York Tribune' review (May 13, 1876); as cited in The private lives of the Impressionists, Sue Roe, Harpen Collins Publishers, New York 2006, p. 153
  • I imagine that you [Camille Pissarro] would be delighted with the country where I am now.. L'Estaque, by the sea. I haven't been in Aix for a month. I've started two little motifs of the sea, for Monsieur [Victor] Chocquet [one of them became his later painting 'The Sea at L'Estaque', who had talked to me about it. It's like a playing card. Red roofs against the blue sea. If the weather turns favorable perhaps I'll be able to finish them off.
  • But there are motifs [in the landscape] that would need three or four months' work, which could be done, as the vegetation doesn't change here. There are the olive trees and the pines that always keep their leaves. The sun is so fierce that objects seem to be silhouetted, not only in black or white, but in blue, red, brown, violet. I may be wrong, but this seems to be the very opposite of 'modeling'. How happy the gentle landscapists of Auvers would be here, and that [con, or 'bastard'?] Guillemet.
    • Paul Cezanne, letter to Camille Pissarro, from L'Estaque 2 July 1876, taken from Alex Danchev, The Letters of Paul Cézanne, 2013; as quoted in the 'Daily Beast' online, 13 Oct. 2013
    • 'The very opposite of 'modeling' ' meant roughly that Cézanne and Pissarro in their common painting-years in open air would lay down one plane or patch of color next to another in the painting, without any 'modeling' or shading between them - so that it looked as if each component part of the painting could be picked up from the canvas a little like a 'playing card from the table', as Cezanne explained here
  • I've got it.. ..the Saint Lazare [station in Paris, then]. I'll show it just as the trains are starting, with smoke from the engines so thick you can hardly see a thing. It's a fascinating sight, a real dream. I'll get them [the station office] to delay the train for Rouen for half an hour. The light will be better then.
    • Claude Monet (1877) his remark to Renoir (who reacted later: 'you are mad', but indeed all the trains were haled and the engines were crammed with coals so as to give all the smoke, like Monet wanted in his series of paintings!) in January 1877; as quoted in The private live of the Impressionists, Sue Roe; Harper Collins Publishers, New York, 2006, p. 173
  • ..the ever-present light blends with and vivifies all things. The idea was that 'nothing should be absolutely fixed'.. that the bright gleam which lights the picture, or the diaphanous shadow which veils it, are only seen in passing, in the actual moment during which the viewer looks at the scene, which, composed at it is of reflected and ever-changing lights, palpitates with movement, light and life.
    • Stéphane Mallarmé (1878) 'The ever-present light' referring to the new Paris school of oncoming Impressionism; published in 'Art Montly Review', 30 September 1878 in Denys Riout; as quoted in Les écrivains devant l'impressionisme, Paris, Macula 1989, pp. 88 -104
  • You are invited to attend the funeral service, procession and interment of the Impressionists, This painful decision is tendered to you by the Independents. Neither false tears nor false rejoicing. Let there be calm. Only a word has died.. .These artists have decided, after serious conference, that the term which the public adopted to indicate them signified absolutely nothing and [they] have invented another [= Independent].
    • Armand Silvestre (1879) as cited in The history of Impressionism, John Rewald, (Fourth edition), Museum of Modern Art, 1974, New York p. 421
    • In spite of the change of name, according to John Rewald, the artists continued to be known as the Impressionists
  • You haven't time to think about the composition. In working directly from nature, the painter ends up by simply aiming at an effect, and not composing the picture at all; and he soon becomes monotonous.
    • Pierre-Auguste Renoir (c. 1879) as cited in Renoir – his life and work, Francois Fosca, Book Club Associates /Thames and Hudson Ltd, London 1975, p. 176
    • Renoir distances himself more from pure Impressionism and starts to focus himself more on forms and composition


  • They [the Impressionists] are not merely concerned with that fine flexible play of colors, which results from the observation of the most delicate value in tone which contrast with or penetrate one another. Their discovery actually exists in having recognized that full-light decolors [bleaches] tones that the [sun]light reflected by objects tends (because of its brightness) to bring them back to that luminous unity which fuses its seven prismatic rays into a single colorless radiance: Light!
    • Louis Edmond Duranty (c. 1880) in his essay 'La Nouvelle Peinture'; as quoted in Impressionism and Post Impressionism 1874 – 1904, Linda Nochlin, Englewood Cliffs, New Yersey, 1966, p. 4
  • Frankly, this is my position: I have been painting for two years, and my only models have been your [ Monet's ] own works; I have been following the wonderful path you broke for us. I have always worked regularly and conscientiously, but without advice or help, for I do not know any impressionist painter who would be able to guide me, living as I am in an environment more or less hostile to what I am doing. And so I fear I may lose my way, and I beg you to let me see you, if only for a short visit. I should be happy to show you five or six studies; perhaps you would tell me what you think of them and give me the advice I need so badly, for the fact is that I have the most horrible doubts, having always worked by myself, without teacher, encouragement, or criticism.
    • Paul Signac, 1880 letter to Claude Monet; as cited by Geffroy: Claude Monet, vol. I, p. 175; as quoted by John Rewald, in Georges Seurat', a monograph; Wittenborn and Compagny, New York, 1943. p. 15
    • In 1880 an exhibition of the works of Claude Monet had - as Signac was to say later - 'decided his career,' - and after his first efforts as an impressionist Signac had ventured to appeal to Monet, writing him this sentence in his letter
  • Huysmans, the naturalist author, has just sent me his book 'L'Art Moderne', - it is a collection of his pieces on the [official] Salon and our exhibitions [of the Impressionists] between 1879 and 1882. I read his book with extreme interest. He has a real feeling for our [the impressionistic] approach. Except for a few points of disagreement, which I mentioned to him in a letter, I share his view. For a while he considered us sick, touched with the disease that attacks painters, "Daltonism." Little by little he has come to take the position that we are cured, and he calls us the only painters of the moment, convinced that we represent the regeneration of French art which had reached its last gasp. - M. Huysmans is exceedingly kind to me in particular.
    • Camille Pissarro (9 May 1883) Paris, letter to his son Lucien; from Camille Pissarro - Letters to His Son Lucien ed. John Rewald, with assistance of Lucien Pissarro; from the unpublished French letters; transl. Lionel Abel; Pantheon Books Inc. New York, second edition, 1943, p. 31
  • I am hard at work, at least I work as much as the weather permits. - I began a work the motif of which is the river bank in the direction of St. Paul's Church. Looking towards Rouen I have before me all the houses on the quays lighted by the morning sun, in the background the stone bridge, to the left the island with its houses, factories, boats, launches, to the right a mass of pinnacles of all colors.. .Yesterday, not having the sun, I began another work on the same motif in grey weather, only I looked more to the right. I must leave you for my motif. I have a room on the street. I shall start on a view of the street in fog for it has been foggy every morning until eleven o'clock—noon. It should be interesting, the square in the fog, the tramways, the goings and comings..
    • Camille Pissarro, Rouen 11 October 1883, in a letter to his son Lucien; from Camille Pissarro - Letters to His Son Lucien ed. John Rewald, with assistance of Lucien Pissarro; from the unpublished French letters; transl. Lionel Abel; Pantheon Books Inc. New York, second edition, 1943, p. 40.
  • The day after your departure I started a new painting at Le Cours-la-Reine, in the afternoon in a glow of sun, and another in the morning by the water below St. Paul's Church. These two canvases are fairly well advanced, but I still need one session in fine weather without too much mist to give them a little firmness. Until now I have not been able to find the effect I want, I have even been forced to change the effect a bit, which is always dangerous. I have also an effect of fog.. .Until now I have not been able to find the effect I want, I have even been forced to change the effect a bit, which is always dangerous. I have also an effect of fog, another, same effect, from my window, the same motif in the rain, several sketches in oils, done on the quays near the boats; the next day it was impossible to go on, everything was confused, the motifs no longer existed ; one has to realize them in a single session.
    • Camille Pissarro (11 October 1883) letter to his son Lucien from Rouen; Camille Pissarro - Letters to His Son Lucien ed. John Rewald, with assistance of Lucien Pissarro; from the unpublished French letters; transl. Lionel Abel; Pantheon Books Inc. New York, second edition, 1943, p. 42.
  • I insist upon 'doing it alone'.. .I have always worked better alone and from my own impressions.
    • Claude Monet (1884) letter to his art-buyer w:Durand-Ruel in Paris, 1884; Quoted in: Discovering Art, – The life time and work of the World's greatest Artists - 'MONET', K.E. Sullivan, Brockhamptonpress, London 2004, p. 51.
    • Monet was painting then in Northern Italy, on the edge of the Mediterranean
  • I saw Monet and Renoir at about the end of December; they had been on holiday in Genoa, in Italy.
    • Paul Cezanne letter to Emile Zola, 23rd February 1884; as quoted in Renoir – his life and work, Francois Fosca, Book Club Associates /Thames and Hudson Ltd, London 1975, p. 175
  • I always urged my contemporaries [the Impressionist painters in Paris, circa 1885] to look for interest and inspiration to the development and study of drawing, but they would not listen. They thought the road to salvation lay by the way of colour.
    • Edgar Degas (1885) critical remark quoted by w:Walter Sickert, Post-Impressionism and Cubism, Pall Mall Gazette (1914-03-11)
    • According to Sickert, Degas had said this to him in 1885
  • If you saw the first painted color-studies that I made when I came here to Nuenen [1883] — and the present canvas [1885] — side by side — I think you’d see that as far as colour is concerned — things have livened up. I think that the question of the breaking of colours in the relationships of the colours will occupy you too one day. For as an art expert and critic, one must also, it seems to me — be sure of one's ground and have certain convictions. At least for one's own pleasure and to be able to give reasons, and at the same time one must be able to explain it in a few words to others, who sometimes turn to someone like you for enlightenment when they want to know something more about art.
    • Vincent van Gogh (1885) referring to his famous painting 'Potato Eaters' - in Letter #0497 to his brother Theo (Amsterdam, 30 April 1885)[1]
  • On Pissarro's advice I'm abandoning the emerald green..
    • Georges Seurat, 1885 note; as cited in the exhibition-text 'Georges Seurat, 1859 – 1891' in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1992, ed. Robert Herbert, published: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York
    • (Camille Pissarro wrote his son Lucien c. 1885 and asked him to warn Seurat and Paul Signac, because mixing the cadmium yellow with other pigments would change into dark color, later)
  • I am weary, having worked without a break all day; how beautiful it is here, to be sure, but how difficult to paint! I can see what I want to do quite clearly but I'm not there yet. It's so clear and pure in its pink and blues that the slightest misjudged stroke looks like a smudge of dirt.. .I have fourteen canvases underway.
    • Claude Monet, c. 1886 letter to his second wife, Alice Hoschedé, from Cote d'Azure; cited by K.E. Sullivan in Monet: Discovering Art, Brockhampton Press, London (2004), p. 55
  • A great change is taking place in art at this moment [start of Neo-Impressionism ]; it gives me pleasure to note the symptoms of this change. I have met a number of painters and critics who seem to understand that the old impressionists have fallen behind. Then, for example, I saw Astruc yesterday, he fulminated against the backsliding of Renoir and Monet, and Sisley's lack of progress.
    • Camille Pissarro, 16 May, 1887 letter to his son Lucien from Paris; in Camille Pissarro - Letters to His Son Lucien ed. John Rewald, with assistance of Lucien Pissarro; from the unpublished French letters; transl. Lionel Abel; Pantheon Books Inc. New York, second edition, 1943, p. 111
  • M. Camille Pissarro has painted a field bathed in sunlight, whose forms, colors and reflections are admirably synthesized. It is more field than any field we have ever seen. We cannot understand what interest the brutal paintings of M. Claude Monet and the simplicist works of M. Renoir can have. Both these artists have taken the wrong path.
    • Jules Desclozeau In a review of the International Exhibition, May 1887; in Camille Pissarro - Letters to His Son Lucien ed. John Rewald, with assistance of Lucien Pissarro; from the unpublished French letters; transl. Lionel Abel; Pantheon Books Inc. New York, second edition, 1943, p. 111 note 23
  • Tell Tanguy to send me some paints. What I need most are ten tubes of white, two of chrome yellow, one bright red, one brown lac, one ultramarine, five Veronese green, one cobalt j I have on hand only one tube of white ... I expect to begin to paint again from nature, and I need the colors.
    • Camille Pissarro, 25 February 1887 letter to his son Lucien; in Camille Pissarro - Letters to His Son Lucien ed. John Rewald, with assistance of Lucien Pissarro; from the unpublished French letters; transl. Lionel Abel; Pantheon Books Inc. New York, second edition, 1943, p. 100
  • ..the Impressionists are only.. ..makers of spots [of paint], and, what is more, spots stolen from the Japanese.
    • Edmond de Goncourt, 8 May, 1888 Journal entry; as quoted in Impressionism: A Centenary Exhibition, Anne Distel, Michel Hoog, Charles S. Moffett, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, (New York, N.Y.) 1975, in Foreword: Helene Adhémar & Anthony M. Clark
  • The purity of the spectral element being the keystone of my.. ..searching for an optical formula on this basis ever, since I held a brush.. ..having read Charles Blanc in school and therefore knowing Chevreul's laws and Eugene Delacroix's precepts, having read the studies by the same Charles Blanc on the same painter [= Delacroix] (if I remember correctly).
    • Georges Seurat, in 'Gazette des Beaux-Arts', Vol. xvi, late 1880's; a cited in Seurat's own letter to Félix Fénéon, June 1890 - explaining the scientific roots of Neo-Impressionism
  • I am distressed, almost discouraged, and fatigued to the point of slightly ill.. .Never have I been so unlucky with the weather. Never three suitable days in succession, so I have to be always making changes [in his paintings] for everything is growing and turning green. And I have dreamed of painting the Creuse [river in the South of France] just as we saw it.. .In short, by dint of changes I am following Nature without being able to grasp her, and then there is that river that shrinks, swells again, green one day, then yellow, sometimes almost dry, and which tomorrow will be a torrent, after the terrible rain that is falling at the moment. In fact, I am very worried. Write to me; I have a great need of comfort.
    • Claude Monet, 24 April 1889 letter to art-critic and friend Gustave Geffroy, from Normandy; as quoted in Letters of the great artists – from Blake to Pollock, Richard Friedenthal, Thames and Hudson, London, 1963, p. 129
  • What seems most significant to me about our movement [Impressionism] is that we have freed painting from the importance of the subject. I am at liberty to paint flowers and call them flowers, without their needing to tell a story.
    • Renoir , as quoted in: Charles Altieri (1989) Painterly Abstraction in Modernist American Poetry, p. 169
  • People will keep on taking them [The French Impressionists] for theorists, when all they wanted was to paint in gay, bright colours, like the old masters.
    • Pierre-Auguste Renoir, as quoted in Renoir – his life and work, Francois Fosca, Book Club Associates / Thames and Hudson Ltd, London 1975, p. 64
    • Renoir's remark to Vollard is referring to the Impressionist artists Monet, Sisley and Pissarro
  • I wanted to tell you that in about 1883 there occurred a kind of break in my work. I had got to the end of 'Impressionism', and I had come to the conclusion that I didn't either how to paint or how to draw. In short, I had come to a dead end.
    • Pierre-Auguste Renoir, as quoted in Renoir – his life and work, Francois Fosca, Book Club Associates / Thames and Hudson Ltd, London 1975, p. 175; Renoir's remark to Vollard
  • We have reached that delightful moment when 'Impressionism' is about to be born, when its light (the formula for which has yet to be found) is still only a hint, a caress, in the silvery snows of Manet [Monet? because Manet did not paint in open air] or in the pale skies of Pissarro. Ah, how one would like to prolong this moment of hesitation for ever, this moment of transition, when transparent blue shadows are putting black shadows to flight and bitumen disappears!
    • person is unknown; as quoted by ‎Pierre Courthion, in Portrait of Manet by himself and his contemporaries, 1960/1983. Translation of La Grande Revue (10 August 1907), p. 212


    Portrait of Père Tanguy
Vincent van Gogh, 1887
  • Le Père Tanguy is himself a martyr to the cause of néo-impressionnisme. ...he is constantly shifting his quarters from inability to pay his rent. No one knows what or where he eats; he sleeps in a closet among his oils and varnishes, and gives up all the room he can to his beloved pictures. There they were, piled up in stacks: violent or thrilling Van Goghes; dusky, heavy Cézannes that looked as if they were painted in mud, yet had curious felicities of interpretation of character; exquisite fruit-painting by Dubois-Pillet... daring early Sisleys, that made the master of the shop shake his kindly head at the artist's later painting; and many others, all lovingly preserved, and lovingly brought out by the old man. Le Père Tanguy... had a curious way of first looking down at his picture with all the fond love of a mother, and then looking up at you over his glasses, as if begging you to admire his beloved children. His French and his manners were perfect and when he... made his bow it was with all the grace and dignity of the old school. He has gone on for years finding the impressionists in colors, etc., and the artists I was with told me, after we left the shop, that many a time had he been sorely in need of money and had gone to remind some artist of an outstanding bill, but found some excuse for his call and come away again without mentioning it, because it seemed to him as if the artist were in straits.
    I could not help feeling... that a movement in art which can inspire such devotion must have a deeper final import than the mere ravings of a coterie.
    • Cecelia Waern, "Some Notes on French Impressionism" (April, 1892) The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 69, p. 541.
  • Everybody's going crazy over the Impressionists; what art needs is a Poussin made over according to nature. There you have it in a nutshell.
    • Paul Cézanne (1896) conversation with Vollard, in the studio of Cézanne, in Aix; as quoted in Cezanne, by Ambroise Vollard, Dover publications Inc. New York, 1984, p. 67
  • Work on the same time on sky, water, branches, ground, keeping everything going on an equal basis.. .Don’t be afraid of putting on colour.. .Paint generously and unhesitatingly, for it is best not to lose the first impression.
    • Camille Pissarro, 1896, in Paul Cézanne, ‎Terence Maloon, ‎Angela Gundert, Classic Cézanne, (1998) p. 45.
  • Painting certainly means more to me than everything else in the world. I think my mind becomes clearer when I am in the presence of nature. Unfortunately, the realization of my sensations is always a very painful process with me. I can't seem to express the intensity which beats in upon my senses. I haven't at my command the magnificent richness of color which enlivens Nature.. .Look at that cloud; I should like to be able to paint that! Monet could. He had muscle.
    • Paul Cezanne, 1896 conversation with Vollard, along the river near Aix; as quoted in Cezanne, by Ambroise Vollard, Dover publications Inc. New York, 1984, p. 74
     La Gare d'Orléans,
Saint-Sever, Rouen
Camille Pissarro, 1896
  • Look for the kind of nature that suits your temperament. The motif should be observed more for shape and color than for drawing. There is no need to tighten the form which can be obtained without that. Precise drawing is dry and hampers the impression of the whole, it destroys all sensations. Do not define too closely the outlines of things; it is the brushstroke of the right value and color which should produce the drawing. In a mass, the greatest difficulty is not to give the contour in detail, but to paint what is within. Paint the essential character of things, try to convey it by any means whatsoever, without bothering about technique.—When painting, make a choice of subject, see what is lying at the right and what at the left, and work on everything simultaneously. Don't work bit by bit but paint everything at once by placing tones everywhere, with brushstrokes of the right color and value, while noticing what is alongside. Use small brushstrokes and try to put down your perceptions immediately. The eye should not be fixed on one point, but should take in everything, while observing the reflections which the colors produce on their surroundings. Work at the same time upon the sky, water, branches, ground, keeping everything going on an equal basis and unceasingly rework until you have got it. Cover the canvas at the first go, then work at it until you can see nothing more to add. Observe the aerial perspective as well, from the foreground to the horizon, the reflection of the sky, of foilage. Don't be afraid of putting on color, refine the work little by little.—Don't proceed according to rules and principles, but paint what you observe and feel. Paint generously and unhesitatingly, for it is best not to lose the first impression you feel. Don't be timid in front of nature: one must be bold, at the risk of being deceived and making mistakes. One must have only one master—nature; she is the one always to be consulted.
    • Camille Pissarro, (the gist of Pissaro's advice given 1896-1897 to the the painter, Louis Le Bail from Le Bail's unpublished private notes) as quoted by John Rewald, History of Impressionism (1946) pp. 356-357.
  • Neo-Impressionist method is an attempt is made to achieve the richness of the sunlight spectrum with all its tones. An orange that blends with yellow and red, a violet that tends toward red and blue, a green between blue and yellow are, with white the sole elements. Through mixture (in the eye of the observer) of these pure colours, whose relationship can be varied at will, from the most brilliant to the greyish. Every brush stroke that is taken from the palette remains pure on the canvas.
    • Paul Signac, as cited in From Delacroix to Neo-Impressionism, by Paul Signac. Paris: 1899
  • The Neo-Impressionist does not stipple, he divides. And dividing involves.. ..guaranteeing all benefits of light.
    • Paul Signac, as cited in From Delacroix to Neo-Impressionism by Paul Signac. Paris: 1899; As quoted in: Flaminio Gualdoni. Art: The Twentieth Century Rizzoli, 2008, p. 12
  • Pissarro wants to achieve delicacy by means of adjustments of nearly like tones; he keeps from juxtaposing two distant tones and does without the vibrant note which such contrast gives, but strives on the contrary to diminish the distance between two tints by introducing into each one of them intermediate elements which he calls 'passage'. But the neo-impressionist technique is based precisely on this type of contrast, for which he feels no need, and on the violent purity of tints which hurts his eye. He has kept of divisionism only the technique, the little dot, whose raison d'etre is exactly that it enables the transcription of this contrast and the conservation of this purity. So it is easy to understand why he [Pissarro] gave up this means, insufficient as it is by itself.
    • Paul Signac, 1899; as cited by John Rewald, in Camille Pissarro - Letters to His Son Lucien ed. John Rewald, with assistance of Lucien Pissarro; from the unpublished French letters; transl. Lionel Abel; Pantheon Books Inc. New York, second edition, 1943, pp. 135
    • Signac, in his book De Delacroix au Neo-impressionnisme, tried to explain in this way Camille Pissarro's desertion from Neo-Impressionism, c. 1890




  • Ninety per cent of the theory of Impressionist painting is in.. ..Ruskin's Elements.
    • Attributed to Claude Monet (1900), talking to a British journalist; quoted by Wynford Dewhurst in 'What is impressionism?', in 'Contemporary Review,' March 1991; as quoted in: John Ruskin (2012) The Elements of Drawing. p. viii.
  • It was not until 1869 that I met him [Édouard Manet] again, but this time, we became friends immediately. From the first meeting, he invited me to join him every evening in a café of the 'Batignolles' where he and his friends would gather to talk at the end of a day spent at their studios. I would meet there, Fantin-Latour and Cézanne, Degas - who arrived shortly afterwards from Italy, the art critic Duranty, Emile Zola who was just starting-off in the literary world and a number of others. I would take Sisley, Bazille and Renoir. There was nothing more interesting than these discussions with their perpetual differences of opinion. Our mind and souls were stimulated.. ..One would always leave, all the better immersed, the will stronger, our thinking more defined and clear.
    • Claude Monet, in Claude Monet par lui-meme – interview by Thiébault-Sisson / translated by Louise McGlone Jacot-Descombes; published in Le Temps newspaper, 26 November 1900
  • What exactly was the special and final addition made to the instrument of painting in the nineteenth century? ...[P]ainting accepted at last the full contents of vision as material, all that is given in the coloured camera-reflection of the real world. ...In the first part of the nineteenth century the studies of English landscape painters in natural lighting were accompanied by the researches of science into the laws of light. First Turner and then Delacroix... who had developed their art on traditional lines, received the full impact of the new impulse... Turner was a reader of Field's books on light and colours. He haunted [a] photographer's shops to discuss the laws of light; he was acquainted with Goethe's theory... Delacroix... discovered for himself the laws of simultaneous contrast of colours published by Chevreul in 1838. ...Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro, received from Turner in 1870 the impulsion and the clue to the rendering of high and vivid landscape illumination. They applied the law more strictly and narrowly, and the word 'impressionist,' which had been gathering its various meanings in scientific and artistic discussions... was first applied to them. ...For purposes of analysis it sees the world as a mosaic of patches of colour... The old vision had beaten out three separate acts—the determination of the edges and limits of things, the shading and modelling of the spaces... with black and white, and the tinting of these spaces with their local colour. ...The old painting followed the old vision by... modelling the chiaroscuro in dead colour, and finally colouring... The new analysis left the contours to be determined by the junction, more or less fused, of the colour patches... to recover the innocence of the eye, to forget the thing as an object... to... recognize that 'local colour' in light or shade becomes different not only in tone but also in hue. And painting tended to follow this new vision by substituting one process for three... ceasing to think in lines except as the boundaries by which these patches limit one another.
  • This Mr Dewhurst (Wynford Dewhurst, [who was writing a book Impressionist Painting, its Genesis and Development, published in 1904] has not understood the Impressionist movement in the very least. All he sees in it is a technical method... ...He also says that before going to London [to see the English landscape-painters as Constable and Turner], we [ Monet and Pissarro ] knew nothing whatsoever about light; but we have studies that prove the contrary. He omits the influence of w:Claude Lorrain, Corot, all the 18th-century painters, Chardin most of all. But what he fails to realize is that while Turner and Constable were of service to us, they confirmed our suspicion that those painters had not understood 'The Analysis of Shadows', which in the case of Turner are always a deliberate effect, a plain dark patch. As to the division of tones, Turner confirmed us its value as a method, but not as a means of accuracy or truth to nature. In any case, the 18th century was our tradition. It seems to me that Turner too, had looked at w:Claude Lorrain. I am even inclined to think there is a picture by Turner, 'Sunset', hung side by side with a Claude.
    • Camille Pissarro (1903) in a letter to his son Lucien, 8 Mai 1903, as quoted in Letters of the great artists – from Blake to Pollock, Richard Friedenthal, Thames and Hudson, London, 1963, p. 149 (transl. Daphne Woodward)
  • How few of our young English impressionists knew the difference between a palette and a picture! However, I believe that Walter Sickert did — sly dog!
  • The point to be made clear is that, whatever may be our temperament, or our power in the presence of nature, we have to render what we actually see, forgetting everything that appeared before our own time. Which, I think, should enable the artist to express his personality to the full, be it large or small. Now that I am an old man, about seventy, the sensations of colour which produce light give rise to abstractions that prevent me from covering my canvas, and from trying to define the outlines of objects when their points of contact are tenuous and delicate; with the result that my image or picture is incomplete. For another thing, the planes become confused, superimposed; hence Neo-Impressionism, where everything is outlined in black, an error which must be uncompromisingly rejected. And nature, if consulted, shows us how to achieve this aim.
    • Paul Cézanne, 23 October 1905 letter to Émile Bernhard; as quoted in Letters of the great artists – from Blake to Pollock, Richard Friedenthal, Thames and Hudson, London, 1963, p. 180.
  • For an Impressionist to paint from nature is not to paint the subject, but to realize sensations.
  • It's like Impressionism. They all do it at the Salons. Oh, very discreetly! I too was an Impressionist. I don't conceal the fact. Pissarro had an enormous influence on me. But I wanted to make out of Impressionism something solid and lasting like the art of the museums.
    • Paul Cezanne, in 'What he told me – I. The motif'; in Joachim Gasquet's Cézanne, - a Memoir with Conversations, (1897 - 1906); Thames and Hudson, London 1991. p. 164
  • That is why, perhaps, all of us derive Pissarro.. ..He told me all about it. In 1865 he was already cutting out black, bitumen, raw sienna and the ocher's. That’s a fact. Never paint with anything but the three primary colours and their derivatives, he used to say me. Yes, he was the first Impressionist.
    • Paul Cezanne, in 'What he told me – I. The motif'; Joachim Gasquet’s Cézanne, - a Memoir with Conversations, (1897 - 1906); Thames and Hudson, London 1991. p. 164
    • Camille Pissarro was guiding Cézanne for several years, painting impressionistic landscapes; they frequently painted together in open air
  • The so-called 'discoveries' of the Impressionists could not have been unknown to the old masters; and if they made no use of them, it was because all great artists have renounced the use of effects. And in simplifying nature, they made it all the greater.
    • Pierre-Auguste Renoir, as quoted in Renoir – his life and work, Francois Fosca, Book Club Associates /Thames and Hudson Ltd, London 1975, p. 178; Renoir’s remark to Vollard
  • I wanted to tell you that in about 1883 there occurred a kind of break in my work. I had got to the end of 'Impressionism', and I had come to the conclusion that I didn't either how to paint or how to draw. In short, I had come to a dead end.
    • Pierre-Auguste Renoir, as quoted in Renoir – his life and work, Francois Fosca, Book Club Associates /Thames and Hudson Ltd, London 1975, p. 175; Renoir's remark to Vollard
  • Since the appearance of Impressionism, the official salons, which used to be brown, have become blue, green, and red.. .But peppermint or chocolate, they are still confections.
    • Claude Monet (1909), as cited in: Sarah Walden (1985) The ravished image, or, How to ruin masterpieces by restoration p. 67
  • My ambition is limited to capturing something transient.
    • Berthe Morisot (1841-95) in: Correspondence de Berthe Morisot, ed Denis Rouart Paris (1950).
  • Impressionism is only direct sensation. All great painters were less or more impressionists. It is mainly a question of instinct, and much simpler than Sargent thinks. But he went on to agree that impressionists had noted how strong
    • Claude Monet, quoted in: Stephen Lucius Gwynn Claude Monet and His Garden: The Story of an Artist's Paradise, Macmillan, 1934, p. 69: Comment by Monet to the English biographer Sir Evan Charteris.
  • I didn't become one.. .As long as I can remember I've always been one.
    • Claude Monet in: Claude Monet, ‎Charles F. Stuckey (1985) Monet: a retrospective. p. 91
    • Monet answering the question, how he had become an impressionist.
  • I want the to give colors intoxication, fullness, excitement, power. By trying to forget Impressionism, I wanted to conquer it. In the process I was conquered. We must work with assimilated, digested Impressionism.
    • Paula Modersohn-Becker (before 1907), as quoted in: Ingo F. Walther (2000) Art of the 20th Century. Part 1, p. 49
  • No, mes amis, impressionism is not charlatanry, nor a formula, nor a school. I should say rather it is the bold resolve to throw all those things overboard.


  • Comme nous avons mal fait de nous laisser appeler Impressionistes.
  • What a pity we allowed ourselves to be called Impressionists.
  • The point is that any piece of Impressionism, whether it be prose, verse or painting, or sculpture, is the record of the impression.
    • F. S. Flint (1914), in German Chronicle, Poetry & Drama, vol. II, ed. Harold Munro Poetry Bookshop, London 1914
  • The impressionists were the first [painters] to reject the absolute value of the subject and to consider its value to be merely relative..
    • Fernand Léger (1914), Contemporary Achievements in Painting, in 'Soirées de Paris', Paris 1914; as quoted in The documents of 20th century art, Thames and Hudson Ltd, London 1973
  • From the day that the impressionists liberated painting, the modern picture set out at once the structure itself on contrasts; instead of submitting to a subject, the painter makes an insertion and uses a subject in the service of purely plastic means..
    • Fernand Léger, in 'Functions of Painting by Fernand Leger', in Contemporary Achievements in Painting, Fernand Leger, 'Soirées de Paris', Paris 1914; p. 14
Impression, soleil levant
Monet, 1872
  • In 1874 Cézanne participated in the exhibition of the Society of Painters, Sculptors, and Gravers at the Nadar Photographic Galleries... There were thirty... which included Pissaro, Guillaumin, Renoir, Monet, Berthe Morisot, Degas, Bracquemond, de Nittis, Brandon, Boudin, Cals, G. Colin, Latouche, Lépine, Rouart... all more or less "innovators." This exhibition enjoyed the same sort of success as had the Salon des Refusés. But the public found occasion to protest from another point of view... you had to dig into your pocket to see the "Impressionists"!—for that was the name the public bestowed with one accord... after seeing a Monet in the exhibition entitled Impression.
    [I]n 1877, Cézanne exhibited... with several members of the same group, in a vacant flat at 6 Rue Lepeletier. On this occasion the exhibitors, at the suggestion of Renoir, unhesitatingly adopted the name of Impressionists.
    They did not pretend to be offering a new type of painting; they simply confined themselves to telling the public honestly, "Here is our work. We know you don't like it. If you come in, so much the worse for you; no money refunded." But... the public came to believe that the new word signified a new school, a misapprehension which persists even to this day.
    • Ambroise Vollard, Paul Cézanne (1914) Paris, Éditions G. Crès; as translated by Harold L. Van Doren in Paul Cézanne: His Life and Art (1923, 1926) pp. 55-56.
  • What I am trying to do is something different — an effect of reality, but what some fools call Impressionism, a term that is usually misapplied, especially by the critics who don't hesitate to apply it to Turner, the greatest creator of mysterious effects in the whole world of art.
    • Claude Debussy As quoted in The Lives of the Great Composers (1997) by Harold C. Schonberg, p. 464


  • One must not forget that Boudin had received lessons from a master, Jongkind, whose oeuvre, especially in the watercolors, is the origin along with [[Corot|Corot]] of what has been called Impressionism.
    • Monet in a letter to Gustave Geffroy, 8 May 1920: Wildenstein 1974, -91, 4:405; as quoted in: Master Drawings from the Yale University Art Gallery, by Suzanne Boorsch, John Marciari, Yale University. Art Gallery, p. 246 – note 5
  • The air you breathe in a picture is not necessarily the same as the air out of doors.
    • Edgar Degas in An Intimate Portrait (1927) - A memoir by w:Ambroise Vollard, translated by Randolph T. Weaver. Dover, 1986 - 'The Crime and the Punishment' (p. 47)
  • If I were the government I would have a special brigade of gendarmes to keep an eye on artists who paint landscapes from nature. Oh, I don't mean to kill anyone; just a little dose of bird-shot now and then as a warning.
    • Edgar Degas in An Intimate Portrait (1927) - A memoir by w:Ambroise Vollard, translated by Randolph T. Weaver. Dover, 1986 - 'Some of Degas' Views on Art' (p. 56)
  • Impressionism was the name given to a certain form of observation when Monet, not content with using his eyes to see what things were or what they looked like as everybody had done before him, turned his attention to noting what took place on his own retina (as an oculist would test his own vision).
Romans During the Decadence
Thomas Couture, 1847
  • The habit of breaking up one's colour to make it brilliant dates from further back than Impressionism - Couture advocates it in a little book called 'Causeries d'Atelier' written about 1860 - it is part of the technique of Impressionism but used for quite a different reason.


  • Hullo! What's this? What are these funny brown-and-olive landscapes doing in an impressionist exhibition? Brown! I ask you? Isn't it absurd for a man to go on using brown and call himself an impressionist painter?
    • Frank Rutter (1933), Art in My Time, p. 111. Rich & Cowan, London, 1933
    • Rutter satirising the reaction of fans of impressionist art on seeing Cézanne's work in London in 1905
  • It is true that the Impressionists perhaps gave a more faithful representation of nature through their discoveries in out-of-door painting. But that they increased their statute as artists by so doing is controversial.. .If the technical innovations of the Impressionists led merely to a more accurate representation of nature, it was perhaps of not much value in enlarging their powers of expression.


  • While Ingres and Delacroix had been more or less isolated exponents of their tendencies, out-distancing their followers, while the naturalist movement had been centered around one man, Courbet, impressionism had come into being through the simultaneous efforts of a number of artists, who in the continual give-and-take had elaborated a style of their own to express their vision. It was with their achievement in mind that Vincent wrote in 1888: "More and more it seems to me that the pictures which must be painted to make present-day painting completely itself... are beyond the power of one isolated individual. They will therefore probably be created by groups of men combining together to execute an idea held in common."
    • John Rewald, History of Impressionism (1946) p. 402; citing Vincent van Gogh, Letters to Émile Bernard (1938) New York.
  • Since light is best expressed through differences in color quality, color should not be handled as a tonal gradation, to produce the effect of light.
    • Hans Hofmann (1948), 'Terms', in Search for the Real and Other Essays by Hans Hofmann, ed. Sara T. Weeks and Bartlett H. Hayes, Jr. Addison Gallery of American Art; p. 74


  • The impressionistic method leads into a complete splitting and dissolution of all areas involved in the composition, and color is used to create an overall effect of light. The color is, through such a shading down from the highest light in the deepest shadows, sacrified an degraded to a (black-and-white) function. This leads to the destructions of the color as color.
    • Hans Hofmann (1951), in 'Space pictorially realized through the intrinsic faculty of the colors to express volume' in New Paintings by Hans Hofmann (1951); also in Hans Hofmann (1998), Helmut Friedel and Tina Dickey
  • They [his early Paris sketches, of circa 1910] are in a high key, somewhat like impressionism or a modified impressionism. I think I'm still an impressionist.
    • Edward Hopper (c. 1958), in: an interview in the late 1950's, Katherine Kuh and Avis Berman ed., in 'My Love Affair With Modern Art', New York 2006, p.276


  • No original Gauguins were to be seen in Australia, for post-impressionism was officially thought to be the vulgar effusion of five-thumbed lunatics.
  • Marcel Duchamp, one of this century's pioneers, moved his work through the retinal boundaries which had been established with Impressionism into a field where language, thought and vision act upon one another. There it changed form through a complex interplay of new mental and physical materials, heralding many of the technical, mental and visual details to be found in more recent art.. .He declared that he wanted to kill art ('for myself') but his persistent attempts to destroy frames of reference altered our thinking, established new units of thought, a 'new thought for that object'.
    • Jasper Johns (1968), Marcel Duchamps 1887 – 1968, Artforum 7 no. 3, November 1968, p. 6
  • [T]he camera can preserve the whole spectrum of animation. Blurred images of pedestrian forms moving at an ordinary rate of speed, such as were recorded by the sluggish mechanisms of early cameras, cannot be duplicated by human vision. This feature common in photographs before the development of more sensitive plates and faster shutter systems, is one of the innovations attributable to Impressionist painting. The adumbration of pedestrian figures by a kind of blurred notation seems to be entirely new in art. It was the urban counterpart to the landscapes represented by some of the Barbizon painters. Corot set the countryside in motion; Monet the city.
  • Inevitably, the untenable relation between naturalistic art and photography became clear. However much other factors may have contributed to the character of Impressionist painting, to photography must be accorded some special consideration. The awareness of the need for personal expression in art increased in proportion to the growth of photography and a photographic style in art. The evolution of Impressionist painting towards colours one ought to see, and the increased emphasis on matière [the material], can well be attributed to the encroachment of photography on naturalistic art. Impressionist paintings may be seen as mirrors of nature, but above all they convey the idea that they are paintings of nature.


  • ..the paint marks [in Impressionist paintings] placed apparently without order and which suddenly became magnificently ordered if one knew how to make the right distance.. communicate a deep, sun-drenched image of a stream, landscape or face.. .My eyes were popping out of my head.
    • Salvador Dali (1973), in Comment on deviant Dali, les aveux inavouables de Salvador Dali, André Parinaud (1973); as quoted in The Unspeakable confessions of Salvador Dali, Parinaud, ed. W. H. Allen, London 1976, p. 42
  • An art mode, new or old, is for the creative mind essentially a point of beginning. Content is brought into being by the activity through which the artist translates the movement into himself. In such an appropriation, there is no difference between an ongoing movement and one that is finished. During the reign of Minimalism, a painter might realize the new through Impressionism. That art history has a schedule of continuous advances en mass is a fantasy of the historian. The shared syntax of art movements is constantly replaced by the sensibility and practice of individuals. The avantgarde art of yesterday is the only modern equivalent of an aesthetic tradition. The fading of the ideas of a movement does not mean that it can no longer be a stimulus to creation. At the very dawn of a movement, the work of its artists commences to replace the concept; instead of Cubism there appear Picasso, Braque, Gris. Compared to the activities to which they give rise, ideas in art have a brief life. In the last analysis, the vitality of art in our time depends on works produced by movements after they have died.
    • Harold Rosenberg (1975, Art on the Edge (1975) "Shall These Bones Live?: Art Movement Ghosts", p. 230
  • Bement [her art teacher] told me things to read. He told me of exhibitions to go and see.. ..the two books that he told me to get were Jeromy Eddy Cubists and Post-impressionism and Kandinsky On the Spiritual of Art'.. .It was some time before I really begun to use the ideas. I didn't start at until I was down in Carolina — alone — thinking things out for myself.
  • Bonington and Constable gave their coulours a greater power of expression by dividing and analyzing them. Delacroix is very struck by this at the Paris Salon of 1824 [of both English painters there were paintings showed]. The effect of dividing colors in this way was certainly already known, but a few more years were still to pass before the method really asserted itself, and from then on Impressionism was born, with France leading the movement.
    • Victorine Hefting, in Jongkinds's Universe, Henri Scrépel, Paris, 1976, p. 16


  • Light is impressionism.
    • Gae Aulenti in: Time (8 December 1986) : On positioning galleries for impressionist and post impressionist paintings at the top of her design for Paris's Musée d'Orsay
  • I am an anarchist in politics and an impressionist in art as well as a symbolist in literature. Not that I understand what these terms mean, but I take them to be all merely synonyms of pessimist.
    Le dejeuner sur l’herbe
Claude Monet, 1865-66
  • It was to the painters of the previous generation that Monet turned... Boudin summed up clothed figures in rapidly noted dashes of color... that... merged the identities of color and line; Jongkind... made sky, rooftops, water, and foliage shimmer in separate dabs of bright paint; Corot employed broad bands of buttery pigment to give the sense of sunlight streaking through foliage to fall on meadow or forest road; Diaz and Rousseau put spots of paint side by side to create a surface mosaic of foliage; Courbet commonly used opaque paint, scraped and dabbed with a palette knife, to form a patchwork of textured areas that adhered as much to surface as to imagined depth. ...Courbet ...insisted that one must paint what one actually sees ...Monet's improvised technique, "sketchy" even in the most finished areas, was ...a further development of the free, somewhat rough way of applying paint which had characterized the mid-century vanguard. In Courbet... free handling was equated with opposition to authority... For other[s] of the same generation, sketchiness was considered forward-looking, independent, and "democratic"... opposed to the highly finished surfaces of officially sanctioned art. Daubigny was accused of giving mere "impressions" of nature... and Millet's shaggy surfaces were treated... as appropriate to his peasant subjects. ...Sincerity, truth, immediacy, spontaneity, natural light, and color, the banishing of muddy colors, the distrust of smooth finish—these were the moral underpinnings of artistic technique that Monet adopted.
    • Robert L. Herbert, Impressionism: Art, Leisure, and Parisian Society (1988) p. 175-176.
  • One of the curious features of Impressionism... was the casualness of their work. ...[T]he painters gave the impression of hastily concocted canvases... more... inspiration than... patient labor. The effortless stroke of genius became a leading measure of artistic quality, partly because it denied mere "work." ..."Art for art's sake" was an invention of the romantic era in France. ...They looked towards a mythical past in which the "natural" person could cultivate self-expression, free of the claims of social utility. This fantasized past... had an anti-industrial character. ...Work was despised because the growing industrial revolution was separating it from inventiveness, originality, and individualism. ...The inventiveness and spontaneity that independent artists sought were... opposed to industrial work,... products (with which they associated academic art) and for many... cities... Women and men held parasols and croquet mallets, not sickles and hoes, and dahlias were more attractive than cabbages. (It is true that Pissarro retained much of the outlook of Barbizon artists...) The work ethic implicit in Barbizon art... was done away with by the impressionists. The suburb and the coastal resort, not the farm, is the landscape of Morisot, Renoir, Manet, and Monet. ...The Impressionists ...joined other middle-class vacationers (except for Cézanne and Pissarro, so little in sympathy with Parisian society).
    • Robert L. Herbert, Impressionism: Art, Leisure, and Parisian Society (1988) p. 304-306.
  • Although we credit it with being the gateway to modern art, we also treat it as the last of the great Western styles based upon a perception of harmony with natural vision. That harmony, long since lost... remains a longed-for ideal, so we look back to Impressionism as... a golden era. Impressionism still looms large... because we use its leisure-time subjects and its brilliantly colored surfaces to construct a desirable history.
    • Robert L. Herbert, Impressionism: Art, Leisure, and Parisian Society (1988) p. 306.
  • All this could be enough -- we would leave an Impressionist painting at this stage -- probably much earlier -- and leave it possibly with great satisfaction.


  • I started out as an impressionist and that's all about observing - how people move, their voice quality, their attitudes and quirks.
Modern Art of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, At the Moulin Rouge: Two Women Waltzing, 1892.
  • After 1909, Monet drastically enlarged his brushstrokes, disintegrated his images, and broke through the taming constraints and delicacy of Impressionism for good. Nineteen gnarly paintings, starting in 1909 and carrying through his final seventeen years, finish off the notion that Monet went happily ever after into lily-land.
  • Impressions are like pearls; ideas are like the string that turns the pearls into a necklace. The string is invisible, but it is not dispensable and cannot be broken.
    • Mu Xin, Mu Xin, a Chinese scholar lost in New York,, 29 December 2013

See also

Art movements
  Medieval   Byzantine · Merovingian · Carolingian · Ottonian · Romanesque · Gothic (International Gothic)
  Renaissance   Early Netherlandish · High Renaissance · Mannerism
  17th century   Baroque · Caravaggisti · Classicism · Dutch Golden Age
  18th century   Rococo · Neoclassicism · Romanticism
  19th century   Nazarene · Realism / Realism · Historicism · Biedermeier · Gründerzeit · Barbizon school · Pre-Raphaelites · Academic · Aestheticism · Macchiaioli · Art Nouveau · Peredvizhniki · Impressionism · Post-Impressionism · Neo-impressionism · Divisionism · Pointillism · Cloisonnism · Les Nabis · Synthetism · Kalighat painting · Symbolism · Hudson River School
  20th century   Bengal School of Art · Amazonian pop art · Cubism · Orphism · Purism · Synchromism · Expressionism · Constructivism · Scuola Romana · Abstract expressionism · Kinetic art · Neue Künstlervereinigung München · Der Blaue Reiter · Die Brücke · New Objectivity · Dada · Fauvism · Neo-Fauvism · Precisionism · Bauhaus · De Stijl · Art Deco · Op art · Vienna School of Fantastic Realism · Pop art · Photorealism · Futurism · Metaphysical art · Rayonism · Vorticism · Suprematism · Surrealism · Color Field · Minimalism · Minimalism (visual arts) · Art & Language · Nouveau réalisme · Social realism · Lyrical abstraction · Tachisme · COBRA · Action painting · International Typographic Style · Fluxus · Lettrism · Letterist International · Situationist International · Conceptual art · Installation art · Land art · Performance art · Endurance art · Systems art · Video art · Neo-expressionism · Neo-Dada · Outsider art · Lowbrow · New media art · Young British Artists · Cybernetic art
  21st century   Art intervention · Hyperrealism · Neo-futurism · Stuckism International · Remodernism · Sound art · Superstroke · Superflat · Relational art · Video game art
  Related topics   List of art movements · Folk art · Abstract art · Modern art · Modernism · Late modernism · Late modernism · Postmodern art · Avant-garde · Graffiti