In the late 19th century, a new art movement took hold in Britain: Impressionism.
This style, which originated in France, was characterized by its use of light and color to create vivid, atmospheric scenes.
While the French Impressionists are often the best-known examples of this style, there were also many British artists who embraced the movement and helped to shape it into a unique form that reflected the country’s own artistic traditions and sensibilities.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the British Impressionism art movement and some of the key artists who helped to define it.
What Is British Impressionism?
British Impressionism was a movement of artists who were heavily influenced by their French counterparts, but who also sought to create a distinctly British style.
Like the French Impressionists, British artists working in this style were interested in capturing the effects of light and atmosphere on a scene, often using loose, “impressionistic” brushstrokes to create a sense of movement and spontaneity.
However, there were some key differences between French and British Impressionism.
For one thing, British artists tended to focus more on landscapes and cityscapes, rather than the social scenes and portraits that were so popular in France.
This may have had something to do with the fact that Britain was a more industrialized society, and that its artists were more interested in capturing the rapidly changing urban and rural landscapes of their country.
Another difference was that British Impressionism tended to be a more conservative movement than its French counterpart.
While French Impressionism was seen as radical and controversial in its day, British Impressionism was often seen as a more genteel and refined style of art.
This may have had something to do with the fact that Britain was a more conservative society than France and that its artists were often working within established artistic institutions and schools.
Key Artists of British Impressionism
There were many talented British artists who worked in the Impressionist style, but a few stand out as particularly influential in shaping the movement.
One of the most important of these artists was James McNeill Whistler.
Born in America but based in Britain for much of his career, Whistler was a major figure in the art world of his time.
He was known for his atmospheric, impressionistic paintings of landscapes and cityscapes, as well as his portraits of society figures.
He was also a major proponent of the Aesthetic movement, which celebrated beauty and art for art’s sake.
Another important figure in British Impressionism was Philip Wilson Steer.
Steer was known for his loose, impressionistic brushwork and his ability to capture the effects of light and atmosphere in his landscapes and seascapes.
He was also a teacher and mentor to many younger artists, including some who would go on to become major figures in the movement themselves.
Other notable British Impressionist artists include:
Walter Sickert, who was known for his moody, atmospheric scenes of urban life
George Clausen, who painted rural landscapes and scenes of peasant life, and
John Singer Sargent, who was born in America but spent much of his career in Britain and was known for his glamorous portraits of society figures.
Legacy of British Impressionism
While British Impressionism was not as well-known or influential as the French Impressionist movement, it still had a significant impact on the art world of its time.
It helped to pave the way for other modernist movements that would emerge in the early 20th century, such as Post-Impressionism and Fauvism.
More importantly, perhaps, British Impressionism helped to establish a distinctly British style of art that reflected the country’s own artistic traditions and sensibilities.
It celebrated the beauty of the British landscape and the richness of its cultural heritage, while also embracing the innovative techniques and ideas of the modern era.
British Impressionism – Wrap Up
The British Impressionism art movement was a fascinating and influential chapter in the history of art.
It reflected the unique cultural and artistic sensibilities of Britain, while also drawing inspiration from the innovative new techniques and ideas that were emerging in the art world of its time.
While the movement may not be as well-known or celebrated as French Impressionism or other modernist movements, its legacy can still be seen in the work of many contemporary British artists.
And for anyone interested in the history of art and the ways in which different cultures and societies have expressed themselves through art, British Impressionism is a fascinating and worthwhile subject of study.
Leave a Reply