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The term impressionist refers to the art movement developed in France in the early 1860s. The movement was founded by the work of artists like Claude Monet (1840-1926), Pierre Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), Camille Pisarro (1830-1903), Alfred Sisley (1839-1899) and Edgar Degas (1834-1917). Impressionism takes its name from the spontaneous effect of the paintings of these artists, who used to paint en plein air, capturing their ‘impression’ of the landscape, sitter or cityscape. The Impressionists' work is characterised by its quick, loose brushstrokes, sketchy quality and the importance and attention given to light and colour. At the time, scientific colour theories were in fact starting to change the way light and colour were understood and it is said that the Impressionists did not use black, instead using complimentary colours to create shadows. The Impressionists are famous for being some of the first artists to consider quotidian modern life a worthy subject of painting, and scenes of train stations, smoky harbours, bourgeoisie’s leisure and rainy streets featured often in their work.
Initially criticised by the art establishment and the Academy, the Impressionists quickly developed international fame and recognition. By the end of the century, Impressionism had great influence overseas and paintings in the Impressionist style were created in America, England and even Russia. It was from this movement that Pointillism developed, among many other post-Impressionist trends.