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In the late 19th century, a groundbreaking new style of painting was evolving in France by artists such as Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Edgar Degas, and Pierre Auguste Renoir. This new genre featured rich, bold colors, close attention to light and atmospheric effects, and loose brushstrokes. French artists began to reject traditional academic painting techniques that favored realism. This new style focused on the way the human eye views the world at a quick glance, highlighting the play of light on objects, rather than the portrayal of objects and their “real-world”, detailed, solid surfaces. Distinctly unpopular as an artistic style when first introduced, works in this genre have now become some of the most easily recognized and sought after. Original paintings by important Impressionist artists now regularly break records at auction, and countless prints of the most famous works are widely purchased by collectors worldwide.
Artists in America became aware of these new techniques in the late 19th and early 20th century as many young painters traveled to Europe to study. Some artists in “The Golden State” began painting in this new style, and eventually this genre became known as California Impressionism, an artistic movement that became widely known and is still immensely popular today. These artists studied changing atmospheric effects as they worked “en plein-air”, outdoors, to capture the exceptional and unparalleled beauty of the hills, mountains, deserts, beaches and farmlands of the State.
The different styles seen in Southern and Northern California Impressionist paintings were developed in great part by the variances in climate and light in the two distinct regions.
For additional information about specific artists, please click on their names below.
Southern California Impressionism
In Southern California, artists such as Guy Rose, Edgar Payne, William Wendt, Maurice Braun, Orrin White, Granville Redmond, Anna Hills, William Otte, Hanson Puthuff, Jack Wilkinson Smith, Franz Bischoff, Elmer Wachtel, John Gamble and Alfred Mitchell were inspired by the sunlight and the warm climate of the area. The colors in their paintings tended to be brighter and more saturated than those of their counterparts in the Northern Areas of the state. Their brushstrokes were often bolder, stronger, and looser.
Currently Available Southern California Impressionist Paintings
Northern California Impressionism
In contrast, Northern California Impressionism tended to be more restrained, softer, and more muted, as a result of the foggier, cooler weather and its effect on the atmosphere and light. The American art movement known as “Tonalism” that began in the 1880's and lasted well into the 1920's was still very popular in this part of the state and practiced by artists such as Percy Gray and Will Sparks. Tonalism focused on creating an interpretation of nature using muted colors, soft outlines, and subtle nuances and gradations of single hues in a narrow range. Some artists, such as Armin Hansen, William Ritschel, Joseph Kleitsch, Alice Chittenden and Jules Pages, however, practiced a more traditional form of Impressionism that featured stronger colors, as well as bolder, looser brushstrokes.
Currently Available Northern California Impressionist Paintings