BLOG #4: Comparison of Impressionistic and Romantic Art Styles

I find the Impressionist approach to art very appealing. In fact, every artist that this lesson has introduced produced at least a few works that I really like, and I feel more strongly about this art form than most of the earlier periods. Let me try to explain why.

The very name Impressionism indicates the goal of these artists: to make an impression upon the viewer about a scene, to evoke an emotional response rather than to directly imitate an external appearance. Personally, I think this philosophy represents the highest achievement of visual art – the communication of emotions. While all art seeks to inspire a reaction of some type, Impressionist art is intended to subtly suggest a specific feeling that the viewer ought to experience.

I also find it a bit of a paradox that this insistence on subduing realism to emotion was an early influence on abstract art. After all, abstract art is about sending messages that are open to interpretation, right? This is something I’d like to see answered as I continue studying this course.

So with that being said, here are a couple of examples of art in both Romantic and Impressionist styles that I really like. I use these examples to compare the styles.

Here is a painting by Pierre Renoir titled Girl Stretched out on the Grass. This work was painted in 1890 while Renoir was living in Paris. It is a fine example of the emphasis on light and color, with shapes deliberately blurred. It almost allows you to feel the shimmering heat rays that a meadow appears to emit under bright sunlight and gives you a hazy, relaxed feeling. There is little to actually look at in this picture, but there is much to experience.

Contrast this with a study along similar lines done by Eugene Delacroix, a famous Romantic painter. This painting was called Two Moroccans seated in the Countryside. The time and place of this painting’s creation are unknown, but it would have been between Delacroix’s first visit to Morocco in 1832 and his death in 1863, placing it at least 30 years prior to Girl, above.

This painting is a fine work of illustration. You get a sense of the starkness of the scene and the characters appear worn and busy, even as they rest. Colors are bold, forms are crisp. Delacroix’s message is not about what these characters may be feeling. Rather he wishes us to see what he saw in his travels, perhaps slightly dramatized.

The difference between these styles is clear. I personally like both. In comparing these two specifically, I cannot even say which I prefer. But I connect with Renoir’s painting. I feel what he felt, or at least that is how it seems to me.

Here is another set of contrasts, done by the same pair of artists, The first painting is Renoir’s Rocky Craigs at l’Estaque, done in 1882, probably in France soon after his visit to Italy which ended in that year. The second is Delocroix’s The Porte d’Amont, Etretat, painted in 1849, probably at Delacroix’s Paris studio.

Once again, these are comparable and very professional studies of rocky, craggy landscapes. But what a contrast! Again, light and color rule Renoir’s work, coupled with soft strokes that defy boundaries between his objects. Delacroix’s work is rather an organized, drawn-and-colored reproduction of a place that he found interesting and that he felt he could share.

Of course, I picked paintings with similar subject matter to demonstrate some major contrasts in styles for this blog. Other paintings, even by these two great artists, share more qualities than not. The differences aren’t always this stark. But they do exist.

Is one style better? I don’t think so. In fact, the Romantic style of art comes very close in my book to being as aesthetically pleasing as Impressionistic art. But I definitely have a soft spot for the way Impressionism can conjure up a mood. That, to me, is its unique quality.

1 thought on “BLOG #4: Comparison of Impressionistic and Romantic Art Styles

  1. Although this post is still a work in progress, I really took away your point in the first section. Art is suppose to make a impression, and be up to interpretation. I think that when I look at art I am looking for something beautiful, not exactly for some alternative meaning. My reaction to Impressionism is less positive than yours, but as I have read through these blogs it has made me realize I am not looking at art as some people are. It is great to get more opinions on pieces and time periods because I can think about them with a more open mind. Good luck with the rest of your post. This is a great start.

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