Impressionism emerged in France in the middle of the 19th century. Though it was initially criticized, it soon gathered a following and, with time, it became so popular that it led to analogous movements in music and literature. Today, Impressionism is regarded as one of the most influential movements in modern art. Characteristics of an Impressionist painting include distinctive brush strokes; vivid colors; ordinary subject matter; candid poses and compositions; and most importantly, emphasis on accurate depiction of light in its changing qualities and unusual visual angles. Moreover, its artists focused on capturing the momentary effect of a scene rather than accurately depicting it. Prior to Impressionism, paintings were usually created in studio. The Impressionists initiated the tradition of creating art en plein air, the practice of painting outdoors. Here are the 10 most famous Impressionist artists and their best known works.

 

Max Liebermann
Max Liebermann

#10 Max Liebermann

Lifespan: July 20, 1847 – February 8, 1935

Nationality: German

The initial works of Max Liebermann were painted in a Realist manner and he became known for his depictions of the lower classes. In fact, as his paintings presented a stark contrast to the then prominent romantically idealized art, he was called the “disciple of the ugly”. However, from 1890 onward, Liebermann was influenced by the art of the French Impressionist, most prominently Edouard Manet and Edgar Degas. And it is for his contribution to German Impressionism that Liebermann is best known. As Liebermann delved deeper into Impressionism, his focus shifted from subject matter to Impressionist techniques. However, he never got rid of subject matter in his works and he maintained a connection to the narrative tradition of German art. Max Liebermann is widely regarded as the leading artist of Impressionism in Germany.

Masterpiece: Two Riders on the Beach (1901)

Two Riders on the Beach (1901)
Two Riders on the Beach (1901) – Max Liebermann

Other Famous Works:-

The Flax Barn at Laren (1887)

Free Period in the Amsterdam Orphanage (1882)

 

Alfred Sisley
Alfred Sisley

#9 Alfred Sisley

Lifespan: October 30, 1839 – January 29, 1899

Nationality: British

Alfred Sisley was born in Paris to British parents. Even though he worked primarily in France throughout his life, he retained his British citizenship. He was thus looked by many in France as an outsider and it might be for this reason that his contribution to French Impressionism is downplayed. Unlike his peers who examined urban life, industrialization and people; Sisley stuck to the landscape genre and rarely strayed from it. His landscape art is known for its ability to accurately capture a sense of atmosphere and light; and for its depiction of the subtleties of natural landscapes that were missed by many other Impressionists. In fact, Sisley’s masterpiece Snow at Louveciennes is regarded as a prime example of Impressionism’s objective to register fleeting effects of weather and light. Alfred Sisley was also the most consistent of the Impressionists in his dedication to painting landscape en plein air.

Masterpiece: Bridge at Villeneuve-la-Garenne (1872)

The Bridge at Villeneuve-la-Garenne (1872)
The Bridge at Villeneuve-la-Garenne (1872) – Alfred Sisley

Other Famous Works:-

Snow at Louveciennes (1878)

The Bridge at Moret (1893)

 

Joaquin Sorolla
Joaquin Sorolla

#8 Joaquin Sorolla

Lifespan: February 27, 1863 – August 10, 1923

Nationality: Spanish

Born in a poor family and orphaned at the age of two, Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida displayed exceptional artistic ability from an early age and, by the age of 15, he was admitted to the Academy of San Carlos in Valencia. His initial works were historical or socially realist. However, he is most known for his contribution to the genre of Impressionism. The paintings of Sorolla may best be described as a variant of Impressionism in which he combined the genre with narrative and anecdotal themes. His most famous works depict bathers, garden views and the seascape of Valencia. Joaquin Sorolla is the most renowned Spanish Impressionist artist and such was his influence on some later Spanish painters like Alberto Pla y Rubio and Julio Romero de Torres, that they are described as “sorollista.”

Masterpiece: Sad Inheritance (1899)

Sad Inheritance (1899)
Sad Inheritance (1899) – Joaquin Sorolla

Other Famous Works:-

Women Walking on the Beach (1909)

Sewing the Sail (1896)

 

Berthe Morisot
Berthe Morisot

#7 Berthe Morisot

Lifespan: January 14, 1841 – March 2, 1895

Nationality: French

Born in an influential family, Berthe Marie Pauline Morisot decided to be an artist early in her life and throughout her life, she pursued that aim with dedication. In 1864, she exhibited for the first time in the highly esteemed Salon de Paris and her work continued to be exhibited there for the next decade. However, in 1874 she joined the revolutionary Impressionists and refused to show her work at the Salon. After the second Impressionist exhibition in 1876, a critic described its participants as “five or six lunatics, one of which is a woman.” That woman was Berthe Morisot. Despite the challenges she faced due to her gender, Morisot went on to became a successful artist and a leading member of the Impressionist movement. Such is her contribution to the movement that, along with Marie Bracquemond and Mary Cassatt, she is known as the “les trois grandes dames (three great ladies)” of Impressionism.

Masterpiece: The Cradle (1872)

The Cradle (1872)
The Cradle (1872) – Berthe Morisot

Other Famous Works:-

Summer’s Day (1879)

Woman at Her Toilette (1880)

 

Camille Pissarro
Camille Pissarro

#6 Camille Pissarro

Lifespan: July 10, 1830 – November 13, 1903

Nationality: French

The middle of 19th century saw the rise of Impressionism. The Impressionists broke away from artistic traditions and instead focused on accurate depiction of light, candid poses and vivid colors. Moreover, they made France the center of the art world and landscape as one of the most important genres. Camille Pissarro is referred to as the “dean of the Impressionist painters” as he was a pivotal figure and mentor within the movement. While his initial landscapes showed his profound knowledge of 18th century French masters, he later started painting en plein air. He depicted peasant subjects in natural settings and focussed on light effects and atmospheric conditions created by the change of the seasons. Pissarro is regarded as the quintessential landscape painter of the Impressionist movement.

Masterpiece: The Boulevard Montmartre at Night (1897)

The Boulevard Montmartre at Night (1897)
The Boulevard Montmartre at Night (1897) – Camille Pissarro

Other Famous Landscape Art:-

The Hermitage at Pontoise (1867)

The Garden at Pontoiseg (1877)

 

Mary Cassatt
Mary Cassatt

#5 Mary Cassatt

Lifespan: May 22, 1844 – June 14, 1926

Nationality: American

Born in Pennsylvania in the United States, Mary Cassatt traveled to France for her artistic training and remained there for most of her life and career. French artistic world at the time was dominated by Impressionism. Mary Cassatt became the only American artist to exhibit with the Impressionists in Paris. Her talent was recognized by her contemporaries and she had a long period of collaboration with the famous artist Edgar Degas. Mary Cassatt is best known for portraying the social and private lives of women, with particular emphasis on the intimate bonds between mothers and children. Her contribution as a female artist is notable as she was able to achieve professional success at a time when very few women were regarded as serious artists. Mary Cassatt is the most famous female Impressionist and she is regarded as one of the greatest female artists of all time.

Masterpiece: The Child’s Bath (1893)

The Child's Bath (1893)
The Child’s Bath (1893) – Mary Cassatt

Other Famous Works:-

Little Girl in Blue Armchair (1878)

The Boating Party (1893)

 

Edouard Manet
Edouard Manet

#4 Edouard Manet

Lifespan: January 23, 1832 – April 30, 1883

Nationality: French

Though not as famous as some of the other artists in this list, Edouard Manet is undoubtedly one of the most influential artists in not only Impressionism but in the entire history of western art. It was he who, more than anyone else, defied traditional techniques and subject matter; and instead used revolutionary art techniques and contemporary subjects. His early masterpieces, The Luncheon on the Grass and Olympia, both created in 1863, led to great controversy and were heavily criticized. However, they are now regarded as watershed paintings that mark the start of modern art. Moreover, it was these works which served as rallying points for the young artists who would then create Impressionism. Edouard Manet was a pivotal figure in the transition from Realism to Impressionism; and he may be regarded as the most influential Impressionist artist.

Masterpiece: Olympia (1863)

Olympia (1863)
Olympia (1863) – Edouard Manet

Other Famous Works:-

The Luncheon on the Grass (1863)

A Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1882)

 

Edgar Degas
Edgar Degas

#3 Edgar Degas

Lifespan: July 19, 1834 – September 27, 1917

Nationality: French

Though he later distanced himself from the movement, Edgar Degas is considered as one of the founders of Impressionism. From the 1870s till his death, he continuously explored the subject of dance which accounts for a large portion of his work. Degas is most famous for his paintings of ballerinas, at work, in rehearsal or at rest. He captured movement like never before which is one of the reasons of the legendary status of his dance paintings. Degas worked in a variety of media including painting, sculpture, print and drawing. Moreover, he was the leading Impressionist in bridging the gap between traditional academic art and the radical movements that went on to dominate the art world in the 20th century. His most renowned work in sculpture is Little Dancer Aged Fourteen while his most famous work as a painter is The Absinthe Drinker.

Masterpiece: The Absinthe Drinker (1876)

The Absinthe Drinker (1876)
The Absinthe Drinker (1876) – Edgar Degas

Other Famous Works:-

Little Dancer Aged Fourteen (1881)

The Dance Class (1874)

 

Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Pierre-Auguste Renoir

#2 Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Lifespan: February 25, 1841 – December 3, 1919

Nationality: French

Pierre-Auguste Renoir was a prolific artist who was among the leading painters of Impressionism. However, he later distanced himself from the movement and drew inspiration from classical art. Renoir is most known for his depictions of women, evolving Parisian society and domestic scenes; as well as nudes and dance paintings. His paintings are notable for their vibrant light and saturated color, most often focusing on people in intimate and candid compositions. Renoir is renowned for his visually brilliant Impressionist compositions. His masterpiece Dance at Le moulin de la Galette is one of Impressionism’s most celebrated masterpieces and has been described as “the most beautiful painting of the 19th century”.

Masterpiece: Dance at Le moulin de la Galette (1876)

Dance at Le moulin de la Galette (1876)
Dance at Le moulin de la Galette (1876) – Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Other Famous Works:-

Luncheon of the Boating Party (1881)

The Large Bathers (1887)

 

Claude Monet
Claude Monet

#1 Claude Monet

Lifespan: November 14, 1840 – December 5, 1926

Nationality: French

Claude Monet was a founder of Impressionism. He was the driving force behind this revolutionary art movement; and its most consistent and prolific practitioner. The name of the movement also comes from his painting Impression, Sunrise; a term which was coined in a satirical review. Monet was dedicated to finding improved methods of painterly expression. He broke tradition and thought in terms of colors, light and shapes. Some of his series explored how smoke, steam, mist, rain etc. affected color and visibility. He did this by painting the same scene many times in order to capture the changing effect of light and the passing of the seasons. Nympheas (Water Lilies), the most renowned series of Monet which contains around 250 paintings, has been described as “The Sistine Chapel of Impressionism”. Claude Monet is the most famous French landscape artist and he is considered among the greatest painters who ever lived.

Masterpiece: Water Lilies series (1896 – 1926)

Nympheas 3
One of the paintings from the Water Lilies Series by Claude Monet

Other Famous Landscape Art:-

Impression, Sunrise (1872)

Haystacks Series (1890 – 1891)

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