A movement seen as the birth of Modernism, Impressionism destroyed the boundaries of the traditional realism. Originating in capitol of France during the 1860’s, impressionists challenged the traditional rules of painting, by applying new techniques, compositions and subject matters.Traditionally painters where restricted to representation, limiting their inner creativity and unique style.

Instead of trying to reproduce exactly what I see before me, I make more arbitrary use of color to express myself more forcefully.

             Vincent Van Gogh,1888

Artists such as Claude Monet, Edgar Degas and Vincent Van Gogh where leading figures for a new and radical way of painting, focusing on colour and light to depict a moment in time – often outdoors. In contrast, traditional Realist painter would paint indoors in their studios, unable to capture nature’s short-lived moments. As expected impressionists came under attack from fellow critics and artists, after all this was a period in history where change was frowned upon. Often focusing on the effect sunlight had on their scene, the impressionist would avoid the usual dull blacks, grey and earthy colours, opting for more vibrant colours. Probably the most recognised change from traditional painting to impressionism was the technique of applying the paint. As the painter’s objective was to capture a moment in time, this meant they had to be quick – often completing a piece in one sitting. Using swift, broken and directional brush strokes, leaving an unfinished feeling. Equally as important was the composition. Although artists such as Claude Monet didn’t use great detail in their work, the composition was perfected – in a way improving the paintings overall emotions. It was in actual fact Monet’ painting, “impression, sunrise” that gave this modern movement its name, a movement which ran for almost 2 decades up until the beginning of the 20th century.

Impression Sunrise, Claude Monet, 1873.

Impression Sunrise, Claude Monet, 1873.

Vincent Van Gogh, Starry night over the Rhone, 1888

Edgar Degas - “The Entrance of the Masked Dancers”, 1884

The “Impressionist” Fine Art movement at the end of the 19th century was not only recognized as the birth of modernism but also revolutionized the way in which artists painted. Technological advances such as photography took much meaning away from the traditional realist paintings, forcing artists to experiment with new styles, techniques, and vibrant colours. Impressionism focused on the effects of light and movement, captured fleeting moments. Although the movement was a major stepping-stone for Modernism, Impressionism rarely exists today as it did back then. For example 21st century painters do not often employ Claude Monet’s small, single coloured brush strokes. However most Contemporary painters have adopted the impressionist outlook on the importance of light and movement.

I collected several paintings by Scottish Landscape artist Cara McKinnon Crawford, whose work reflects these important factors. Combined with fine use of brushstrokes, composition and vibrant colours, makes it evident that today’s practicing artists have been influenced to a certain degree. As part of her unique collection “21st Century Clyde”, Crawford has attempted to capture over 200 paintings, all of which capturing different aspects of the clyde through its regeneration.

Up River" Erskine Bridge and Glasgow.

Up River” Erskine Bridge and Glasgow.

"Mighty Crane" Govan, Glasgow, Cara Mckinnon Crawford


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About ryanmcginley

Currently studying Graphic Design at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design.

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