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Art 102 Impressionist Style Page 1 of 4
Characteristics of Impressionist Style
Impressionismis a style of painting which, with paint on canvas, reproduces the optical effects of light and color.
The properties of color that the Impressionist artists employed in their paintings are explained in the Starter Kit at the beginning of your textbook. Look for the use of primary, secondary and complementary colors.
See also, this excellent website on color: http://www.worqx.com/color/index.htm. On the left side of the screen, click on Color Wheels and Complementary Colors. Explore the rest of the web site at your leisure.
Other color properties that play a part in the Impressionist style are complementary contrast and simultaneous contrast.
Techniques of Impressionist painters include the divisionist technique, optical mixing and the visible brush stroke.
Some of the properties of color that the Impressionist artists employed in their paintings are:
• Primary Colors—red, yellow and blue. Theoretically, primary colors cannot be created by mixing any other hues.
• Secondary Colors—orange, green and violet, made by a mixture of two primary colors. • Complementary Colors—a primary color and the secondary color made from the two
remaining primaries, for example, blue and orange. • Complementary Contrast—When placed side-by-side, complementary colors enhance
the brilliance of each other. • Simultaneous Contrast— a flickering effect that occurs when complementary colors are
juxtaposed, because one of the complementary colors is warm and the other is cool. The warm color advances in the visual field, and the cool color recedes. As the eye adjusts to the contrast in advancing and receding colors, a flickering effect is created.
• Negative After-Images— After-images may be at work in some Impressionist paintings, enhancing the colors. Go back to this excellent website for an explanation of how after- images work: http://www.worqx.com/color/after_image.htm. A 20th century American artist, Jasper Johns, used this phenomenon in his painting, Flags. Scroll to the next page to see the painting. Stare at the white dot in the center of the green, black and orange flag for several seconds, then look at the black dot in the pale flag below it. Theoretically you should see the flag in its complementary colors—red, white and blue.
Art 102 Impressionist Style Page 2 of 4
Flags, 1968 Jasper Johns (American, born 1930) Lithograph with stamps; 34 x 25 in. (86.4 x 63.5 cm)
Art 102 Impressionist Style Page 3 of 4
Techniques of Impressionist Painters
• Divisionist Technique—The Impressionists applied pure pigment to the canvas in little daubs. Seen from a distance, the colors appear to flow together. For example, blue and yellow placed side-by-side will appear to be green. This visual effect is called Optical Mixing, and produces a more brilliant color than can be achieved by mixing the paint on the palette.
• Visible Brush Stroke—The divisionist technique resulted in a visible brush stroke. This led to an appreciation of the brush stroke as an aesthetic element in painting.
One variation of the divisionist technique is Pointillism. In the paintings of Georges Seurat, the paint is applied, rather mechanically, in tiny dots. Below is the painting, Model from the Back with a close-up view showing the pointillist application of paint.
Model from the Back, 1887 Georges Seurat All images by permission of ARTstor.
Art 102 Impressionist Style Page 4 of 4
primary, secondary and complementary colors
visible brush stroke