Impressionist Oil Paintings

In 1874, a group of young artists whose work had been rejected by the stuffy Salon survey that the Paris art would mounted every year decided to go it on their own. From April 15 to May 15, 1874, they held their own exhibition at the studio of the photographer Nadar, which had become a well-known hangout for bohemian celebrities. The artists in this first official Impressionist exhibition were Paul Cezanne, Edgar Degas, Arman Guillaumin, Claude Monet, Berthe Morisot, Camille Pissaro, Pierre Auguste Renoir, and Alfred Sisley. They name themselves the Societe Anonyme, but the satirical journalist Louis Leroy, writing in the April 25 issue of the magazine Le Charivari, mockingly called the artists «impressionists,» after Monet’s painting Impression, Sunrise (1872).

When the Impressionists came along, the Paris art scene was dominated on the one hand by pictures of phony Neoclassic nobility and on the other by corny Romantic melodrama. It was all soap opera as subject matter, and the Impressionists were having none of it. They tossed out literary subjects, mythology, and the grand themes of history. They abandoned contour, modeling, and precise detailing. They even gave that celebrated mainstay of art, imagination, the old heave-ho, or so they said, concentrating instead on the close observation of nature. They didn’t just look at stuff. They were scientists examining visual phenomena.

And instead of faking it in the studio with models and sketches, the Impressionists took their easels out and painted in the open air (called plein air in French). They painted in the forests of Fontainebleau, at the Seine, and on the Channel beaches. In this they were following the example of the earlier Barbizon School landscapists, a group of painters who rejected the by-then tired classical stylistic formulas in favor of the direct study of nature.

While the Barbizon school landscapes expressed the solitude and quiet of nature in misty shades of gray, green, and earth tones, the Impressionists favored highly colored, light-filled scenes, often popular with picnickers, boaters, and a range of everyday people, frequently seen relaxing on their day off. The painters Renoir and Monet, in their attempt to capture the visual effects of sparkling sunlight in the open air, discovered the technical secret of Impressionism: marks of pure color placed side-by-side to achieve brilliance and luminosity. The Impressionists all but banished brown and gray from their palettes and went so far as to use color to create shadows. What’s more, they didn’t smooth over the marks of their brushes but emphasized bold and forceful brush-strokes to give their pictures the dynamism of nature.

The Impressionists exhibited together eight time from 1874 to 1886. But long before the group broke up, its individual members had matured and begun to travel their own particular artistic paths.

Post-impressionist Paintings

Post-impressionism is a great name for an art movement – even if none of the artists involved has ever heard of it! The term was actually invented years later by a pair of British critics.

The writer, editor, and museum director Roger Fry shows at London’s Grafton Galleries of works by modern French masters, notably Cezanne, Gauguin, and Matisse, with a few Cubists thrown in for good measure. The English aesthetician and critic Clive Bell (1881-1964) also used the name in his book of essays, Art (1914).

Thus history was made, a couple decades late.

So Postimpressionism, not to put too fine a point on it, is a catch-all term that describes art that came after Impressionism. From the 1880s to the end of the century, Postimpressionist artists kept Impressionism’s bright colors but added a whole new focus on meaning, whether primitive, mystical, or scientific.

Expressionist Paintings

The search for expressiveness of style by means of exaggerations and distortions of line and color; a deliberate abandonment of the naturalism implicit in Impressionism in favor of a simplified style intended to carry far greater emotional impact. In this general sense of emotional force Expressionism is a feature of non-Mediterranean art in general, Grunewald being the standard example. In the more limited context of modern art, the drastically simplified outline and very strong color. In France, this has clear affinities with Fauvism, but the principal exponents, apart from Touilouse-Lautrec, were mostly German. The Brucke and the Blaue Reiter ware two of the principal sub-groups, while some of the major individual artists are Beckmann, Ensor, Kokoschka, Nolde, Rouault and Soutine. The nature of their subject-matter and the emphasis placed on outline are two reasons for the important part played by Expressionist graphic art. The Rifkind collection (now in Los Angeles Mus.) of some 6,000 drawings and engravings is one of the finest collections of Expressionist graphics.

Expressionism began in France, prospered in Germany, and developed all over Europe.

Baroque Oil Paintings

After the Renaissance, there followed a period of great wealth typified by courtly festivals and the vesting of royal ceremony in garments of classical mythology. In art this secular world was represented through swirling figures, bravura displays of composition, and fantastic compositions of light and dark. Originally the term barocco, like the term gothic, was used to describe bad or bizarre taste. Later, «gothic» became the word for what was barbaric, while «baroque» became the word for that which was degenerate.

Perhaps the most colorful Baroque master was the mysterious Michelangelo Merisi Da Caravaggio (1569-1610), a naturalistic painter known for dramatic use of light. Caravaggio settled in Rome and worked in Genoa and southern Italy. He scandalized the church by painting religious subjects in everyday settings with ordinary people. Caravaggio revolutionized painting by working directly from life without preparatory drawings.

The Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) was also a diplomat and a scholar. He was noted for his brilliant use of color, his imagination, and his ability to create crowd of vigorous figures.

Without a doubt the greatest Dutch painter is Rembrandt (1606-1669). He is just as famous for his etchings and drawings. His poetic portraits with unusual lighting made ordinary people look mysterious and exotic.

Jan Vermeer (1632-1675), everyone’s favorite painter, showed the everyday life of the prosperous Dutch bourgeoisie through his subtle handling of light effects.

Realist Paintings

Lots of painters’ work can be called realistic, not least among them Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Vermeer, and Chardin. But the art historical movement known as Realism took place in France between 1848 and 1860, more or less, and was a reaction to the excesses of Romanticism and Neoclassicism.

In part, Realism was about showing life as it was, without any squeamishness or conventionality. Caravaggio’s painting of St. Matthew with dirty feet in St. Mattthew and the Angel (1600) was emblematic of this attitude. Another aspect of Realism was political; the French revolution of 1848 gave Realism a class consciousness that is distinctly modern. One of the first social realist paintings was Gustave Courbet’s Stone Breakers (1850), now destroyed.

Courbet was leader of the Realist school. He couldn’t abide either Neoclassical historical scenes or the poetic literary subjects of the Romantics. He painted things like funerals, with everybody there, looking like they really looked. Critics thought it was ugly and subversive, but Courbet wasn’t bothered. I painted like God himself.» he is supposed to have said. «Show me an angel and I will paint one.» he said.

Another great Realist was Honore Daumier (1810-1879), a political cartoonist without peer who once did six months in jail for razzing the Emperor Louis-Philippe in the paper La Caricature in 1831. His many prints drawings, and paintings sometimes documented the human condition with straightforward honesty and feeling, but frequently made fun of the bourgeoisie and corrupt political figures. Daumier invented the lawyer joke in an 1836 lithograph.

Early Renaissance Oil Paintings

The Renaissance marked the rebirth of classicism and the recovery of classical culture of Greek and Rome. Religious subject matter and patronage began to decline. The church was no longer the only patron of art; suddenly princes like Lorenzo de Medici were also buying art works and supporting poets and scholars. These new patrons also encouraged the philosophy of humanism, with made man, not God, the center of reference.

Artists attempted to represent the world by understanding its structure. Early Renaissance artists in Florence and Rome, in particular, tried to depict people in more realistic, three-dimensional form. They tried to depict architecture in ways that recreated illusionistic depth through mathematical perspective. The marked a turn from the more decorative or purely schematic depictions of the High Gothic period, or International Style, as it was known in Italy.

The biggest selling items during this period remained devotional images of the Holy Filmily, Adam and Eve, assorted saints, and scenes from the Bible. Only later did Renaissance artists begin to draw on the entire range of mythological and social subjects for their works.

High Renaissance Oil Paintings

High Renaissance (1450 to 1520), the ‘birth’ of new interest in Classical Greco-Latin world, that artistic revolution of the Early Renaissance matured to what is now known as the High Renaissance. There has never been growth as lovely as that of painting in Florence and Rome, of the end of 15th and early 16th centuries. High Renaissance in Italy is the climax of Renaissance art, from 1500-1525. It is also considered as a sort of natural evolution of Italian Humanism.

It has been characterized by explosion of creative genius. Painting especially reached its peak of technical competence, rich artistic imagination and heroic composition. The main characteristics of High Renaissance painting are harmony and balance in construction.

Italian High Renaissance artists achieved ideal of harmony and balance comparable with the works of ancient Greece or Rome. Renaissance Classicism was a form of art that removed the extraneous detail and showed the world as it was. Forms, colors and proportions, light and shade effects, spatial harmony, composition, perspective, anatomy – all are handled with total control and a level of accomplishment for which there are no real precedents.

We find it in the works of the greatest artists ever known: the mighty Florentines, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo; the Umbrian, Raffaello Sanzio; along with the great Venetian masters Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese.