The main difference between impressionism and expressionism is that impressionism emerged during the late 19th century in Paris whereas expressionism emerged during the early 20th century in Germany and Austria. Moreover, impressionist artists paid special attention to the depiction of the impression of light and its changing effect whereas expressionist artists paid special attention to the depiction of emotion the subject arouses in the artist.
Impressionism and Expressionism are art movements that appeared around the 20th century in Europe. Both focus on painting styles.
Key Areas Covered
1. What is Impressionism
– Definition, Characteristics, Artists
2. What is Expressionism
– Definition, Characteristics, Artists
3. What are the Similarities Between Impressionism and Expressionism
– Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Impressionism and Expressionism
– Comparison of Key Differences
Art, Expressionism, Impressionism, Literary Movements, Painting Styles
What is Impressionism
Impressionism is an art movement that originated in the late 19th century in Paris as an artistic reaction to the rapidly changing urban environment. The movement also marked a momentous break from tradition in European painting. Impressionists were harshly criticized by the conventional artists in France. However, later on, this art movement was highly admired and loved.
The name impressionism is derived from the title of Claude Monet’s painting Impression, Soleil levant (Impression, Sunrise). The impressionist style of painting is considered a spontaneous method of painting in which an artist attempts to capture the impression of light in a scene.
Moreover, a distinguishing feature of impressionist paintings is their painting style that rejected the traditional realist style. The impressionists incorporated new scientific experiments into the use of color to achieve a more exact representation of color and tone. They used a more optical method as they mixed the unblended pigments to create a nebulous blend of pure colour.
Emphasizing the subject’s gaze in their paintings, impressionists also explored the theme of isolation in a newly crowded society through their subject’s gaze. Some famous impressionist artists are Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, Édouard Manet, and Armand Guillaumin.
Characteristics of Impressionism
The impressionist artists focus mainly on
- Vibrant colors rather than mixing them
- Spontaneous brushstrokes in broad strokes, either using a painting knife or a brush,
- Emphasis on accurate depiction of light along with its changing quality
- Unusual visual angles
- Subjects from the modernized urban life
- Candid poses and compositions of subjects
Thus, this method helped the artists to highlight the impression of their object, more than painting the object in a realistic manner.
Moreover, impressionism enabled the artists to paint an image in such a way that the spectator would feel they only got a glimpse of the image subject.
Most paintings in impressionism are outdoors capturing realistic scenes of modern life painted in vibrant colors without an emphasis on detail.
What is Expressionism
Expressionism is an art movement that originated in the early 20th century in Germany and Austria, also as an artistic response to the dehumanizing effects resulting from industrialization. In this art style, the artist attempts to depict subjective emotions and responses that objects and events arouse in him, instead of objective reality. Thus, this art is a reaction to positivism and other artistic styles such as Naturalism and Impressionism.
The term expressionism has its origin in the paintings exhibited by Julien-Auguste Hervé in 1901 in Paris, which he called Expressionismes. There are distinct artistic characteristics in expressionism that makes it different from other styles. Unlike impressionist paintings, expressionist paintings are full of vivid imagery and emotion, and they are often described as showing a touch of the dark side of human nature. The use of distorted and agitated brushstrokes signify the emotional effect in these paintings.
Hence, these paintings present the world solely from a subjective perspective and distort the subject matter radically for emotional effect in order to evoke moods or ideas and to create an emotional effect. Moreover, these artists used arbitrary colors in their works, meaning subjects were depicted in colors that had no natural relation to them (a green face, an orange sky, etc.).
Likewise, expressionist painters show their emotions and personal views of their work. They portray subjective reality rather than realism. Artists who paint in this style also incorporate fantasy and violence in their subject matter in order to show the extremity of emotions. Some well-known expressionist artists are Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Georges Rouault, Max Beckmann, August Macke, Paul Klee, Marc Chagall, Edvard Munch, and Wassily Kandinsky.
Characteristics of Expressionism
The distinguishing painting characteristics of expressionist art are
- Agitated or gestural and distorted brushstrokes to convey extreme emotions
- Use of intense and arbitrary bold color with solid hues
- Often subjects were depicted in colors that had no natural relation to them. Moreover, artists like Wassily Kandinsky even assigned colors to different feelings (red for joy, yellow for anger, etc.).
- Disjointed spaces and distorted subject matters – this is used to illustrate new anxieties and isolation in urban life.
Expressionist paintings are characterized by distortion and exaggeration in order to create an emotional effect.
Similarities Between Impressionism and Expressionism
- Impressionism and Expressionism are art movements that emerged during the late 19 to the early 20th century as an artistic response to the changing modernized, industrialized human lifestyles.
- Both art movements had similar themes as a response to the effects of modernized, industrialized human lives such as isolation, dehumanization of human lives, etc.
- Also, Impressionism and Expressionism both emerged as opposition to realism and naturalism.
Difference Between Impressionism and Expressionism
Impressionism is an art movement that originated in the late 19th century in Paris as an artistic reaction to the rapidly changing urban environment. On the other hand, Expressionism is an art movement that originated in the early 20th century in Germany and Austria as an artistic response to the dehumanizing effects resulting from industrialization. Thus, this is the main difference between Impressionism and Expressionism.
Significant characteristics in impressionism include the use of vibrant colors, harsh and spontaneous brushstrokes, accurate depiction of light with its changing quality, use of unusual visual angles, and the use of subjects from the modernized urban life. In contrast, significant painting characteristics in expressionism include the use of intense and arbitrary colors with solid hues, agitated or gestural brushstrokes to convey extreme emotions, disjointed spaces, distorted subject, and the use of subject matters from industrialized urban life. Hence, this is a major difference between Impressionism and Expressionism.
Some famous artists in impressionism are Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, Édouard Manet, Armand Guillaumin, etc. while some famous artists in expressionism are Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Georges Rouault, Max Beckmann, August Macke, Paul Klee, Marc Chagall, Edvard Munch, Wassily Kandinsky, etc. This is another difference between Impressionism and Expressionism.
Both impressionism and expressionism are art movements that happened during the 20th century in Europe. Impressionism emerged during the late 19th century in Paris whereas expressionism emerged during the early 20th century in Germany and Austria. Even though at a glance they do appear similar styles of paintings, they have distinguishable characteristics and styles. Thus, this is the difference between Impressionism and Expressionism.
1. “Impressionism.” Art Movements, Available here.
2. Habicht, Clemens, and Shovova. “How Impressionism Changed the Art World and Continues to Inspire Us Today.” My Modern Met, 27 June 2018, Available here.
3. “Impressionism.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 5 Feb. 2019, Available here.
4. “Expressionism.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 1 Feb. 2019, Available here.
5. “Expressionism.” Art Movements, Available here.
1. “62934” (CC0) via Pixabay
2. “Claude Monet, Impression, soleil levant” By Claude Monet – wartburg.edu (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
3. “Edouard Manet, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère” By Édouard Manet – Museum page (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
4. “[ B ] Max Beckmann – Self-portrait with Champagne Glass (1919)” By cea + (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr
5. “Edvard Munch – The Scream – Google Art Project” By Edvard Munch – Google Art Project (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
6. “Kirchner Berlin Street Scene 1913” By Ernst Ludwig Kirchner – Scanned by uploader from the catalog: Deborah Wye, Kirchner and the Berlin Street, New York, MoMA, 2008. ISBN 9780870707414 (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
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