AIS Impressionism Definitions



“What is American Impressionism? Does my work fit?” are questions that are consistently asked, especially as AIS has grown. In the past, AIS adopted a more formal definition for American Impressionism. However, we realize it’s a complex subject and a rigid definition is far too restrictive. Our Officers and Board Members have agreed it is more helpful to think about American Impressionism in a broader context, and we have asked several of our AIS Masters, Board Members including our Founder, and a few of our recent award winners to share their own definitions of “What is Impressionism?” The AIS definition and more formal definitions are also included.


Charlotte Dickinson AIS AIS Founder and Board Member

What is American Impressionism? A quote from my mentor William Schultz, Master Artist: "One needs to look back in history when over 100 years ago a group of French artists launched the New Vision. It was a new genre (style) of painting. Objectiveness was left behind, and wondrous sensations of beauty, line, tone and color built the image." As the world fell in love with this technique, many American artists flocked to France to learn from Monet, Pissarro, and others. They came together as a group and purchased a large brownstone building at 47 5th Avenue, New York City where they held exhibits and sold their works, which is now the Salmagundi Club. This club continues to be active to this day. They invited AIS to exhibit our 20th National Juried Show in September-October 2019. American Impressionism ranges from pure Impressionism, such as John Twachtman, Childe Hassam, and Willard Metcalf; to Edward Redfield, Aldro Hibbard, Emile Gruppe and their contemporaries, among whom were Charles Movalli, William Schultz, and the many working Masters we list in our catalogues. Impressionism is characterized by loose brushwork and some realism, thereby being more creative and showing something of the artist's soul.

AIS MASTER MEMBERS Bill Schneider AISM Bill shared a quote he likes, attributed to Richard Schmid: ‘People don’t want to know what you SEE, they want to know what YOU see." I want to convey motion, a shorthand, summation, or impression of what I’m seeing as opposed to a tight photograph. I like the broken color/strokes of Impressionists, especially the work of the Russian artists with their broken form, and most notably the work of Nicolai Fechin. It’s accurate and simultaneously loose. The viewer fills in the missing pieces. I try to see how far I can go (to destroy the form) while still keeping the image recognizable.

Roger Dale Brown AISM

Anne Blair Brown AISM

Impressionism is broken color, everyday subject matter, light and brushwork. Technique and use of light and philosophy for sure. The original Impressionists wanted to capture the prism of light that they saw in nature. They used broken color, juxtaposition of colors to create vibrations in their paintings. I love the Russian and New England impressionists. There is an earthy quality to their colors which I find appealing.

The ability to evoke emotion or a sense of light, atmosphere, and space through brushwork and paint application.

C. W. Mundy AISM The original intent came from Claude Monet in response to being asked for a title of a painting for an exhibition. He responded with the painting title “Impression, Sunrise” of the sunrise over Le Havre, a harbor town on the French Normandy coast. Nevertheless, a broader interpretation of Impressionism has morphed into what I would call “energetic realism”. In my discoveries, at first glance, the painting seems to be realistic, but looking at the inner parts of all its forms, it is very charismatic in paint manipulation


Debra Joy Groesser AIS AIS CEO and President

I believe it's easier to define Impressionism by what it isn't rather than what it is. It isn't tightly rendered or photorealistic subjects and it isn't non- representational/abstract. However, there is a broad range in between the two that can be considered Impressionism. No matter how loosely rendered, subject matter in Impressionism is representational. For me, Impressionistic paintings most often portray light and the effects of light on the subject, expressing the light at a particular moment in time. Visible brushstrokes are nearly always present in Impressionistic paintings. Think of Monet's paintings of the haystacks or Rouen Cathedral in different times of day capturing different effects of light, and his vigorous brushwork. Think of the Hensche school, capturing light with vibrant color. Then there are the California Impressionists, again, with their masterful paintings of light filled subjects. There are the Russian Impressionists who are known for their thick juicy brushwork. What I hear over and over about our AIS exhibitions is that viewers love the variety in style and subject matter. In every one of our exhibitions, you can see the influence of all of these "schools" of Impressionism in the work displayed.

Cheryl St. John AIS AIS Vice President

Impressionism to me is a spontaneous interpretation of a scene using little detail and expressive brush strokes. The viewer is to use their imagination to determine what it represents or means to them...or “fill in the blanks.”

Doreen St. John AIS AIS Secretary

Impressionism, for me, is the interpretation of real world subjects that emphasize light, atmosphere, shapes/form, energetic brushwork, and color and that express the emotion of the artist and/or scene. The importance is on the interpretation and emotion, rather than on accurate, stiff renderings of reality.

Terry Proctor AIS Board member

Mark Daly AIS Board member

Impressionism is an immediate and imprecise visual art form that portrays a spontaneous and personal interpretation of everyday life. It typically focuses on light, color, movement, and emotion.

Impressionism is a genre of painting, where the artist is inspired by light on the subject. The work is then painted with strokes of color, value, and temperature that play off each other without fine details, except at the center of interest.


Mary Garrish AIS AIS Past President I view Impressionism as a style and movement in painting characterized by depicting the visual impression of the “moment." This is especially pertinent in portraying the shifting effects of light and color. Monet was an exemplary example, especially when you study the evolution of his works.

Philippe Gandiol For me, Impressionism is a mindset. We all see the world that is surrounding us in a different way as it is subjected to our personality, our mood, our physical attributes, our aspirations. It is also subjected to the time we live in, the evolution of mankind. Therefore, it can take many forms as it is in a constant flux and it flows through each of us in its own way. Impressionism is my own honest (as much as possible) response to it. So, it has to do with all of it: subject matter, technique, use of light and all that I described above.

Brett Jensen AIS Impressionism is the close observation of color within subject matter. A combination of the right brushstrokes of the right values while using the right color makes for a quality Impressionist painting.

Impressionism is NOT: Hyper-realistic/tightly rendered/photographic renderings of subjects, Wikipedia Impressionism is a 19th-century art movement characterized by relatively small, thin, yet visible brush strokes, open composition, emphasis on accurate depiction of light in its changing qualities (often accentuating the effects of the passage of time), ordinary subject matter, inclusion of movement as a crucial element of human perception and experience, and unusual visual angles. 2. the depiction (as in literature) of scene, emotion, or character by details intended to achieve a vividness or effectiveness more by evoking subjective and sensory impressions than by recreating an objective reality A style of painting developed in the last third of the 19th century, characterized chiefly by short brush strokes of bright colors in immediate juxtaposition to represent the effect of light on objects. A manner of painting in which the forms, colors, or tones of an object are lightly and rapidly indicated. AIS Definition “The American Impressionist Society defines American Impressionism as “The concern for light on form, color, and brushstrokes. Allowing equal latitude between these attributes, and recognizing not a single definitive element, but several factors–including light and hue, visual breakdown of detail, concern for contemporary life, and cultivation of direct and spontaneous approaches to a subject.” Merriam-Webster 1. a theory or practice in painting especially among French painters of about 1870 of depicting the natural appearances of objects by means of dabs or strokes of primary unmixed colors in order to simulate actual reflected light;

rendered with a lot of hard edges Abstract, non-representational Not just a single approach or ‘look’ 231-881-7685

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