Visual Art

The invention of the camera and the process of photography made artists reexamine the purpose of their art. The camera could capture the world exactly as it appeared. Photography forced artists to search for new ways of showing images. With Realism’s goals (capturing the common man) and the invention of the camera, the next generation of artists expanded their artistic vision. Impressionism focused on both the effects of light and atmospheric conditions while capturing a moment in time. Although the camera could not capture color, this art element still became the Impressionists’ trademark. Two artists, Claude Monet and Mary Cassatt, were both leaders in the Impressionistic style.

Later, Post-Impressionism explored the expression of reality in new ways, using color and form. Artists experimented with new techniques of working with media. Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin were two of the artists whose work was characteristic of this art style.

Western Europeans were exposed to art from other cultures. Japanese prints, which first appeared as packing material for shipments of such trade goods as porcelain, became a major source of inspiration for Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists. Japan had traditionally been a country of isolation. The government would not permit any other countries to interact with its culture. However, Japan was forced to open its ports because of war, thus the long period of isolation ended. Many Japanese prints and other artworks were now exposed to the Western world. Japanese prints showed that less detail and flatter forms could create interesting and successful artwork. Also notable was the use of diagonal compositions with less importance given to perspective.

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Impressionism developed distinct characteristics:

• Less detail to objects
• Thick paint applied in layers with short brushstrokes
• Pure color, little mixing
• Use of blues and violet instead of black for shading
• Study of the effect of light on objects
• Painting outside using portable easels and tubes of premixed paint
• Blurred, soft edges

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