Although the Impressionist movement was not exclusively made up of French
people, it did start in France. The French Revolution of 1789 brought
world-wide class upheaval, but it took place in France first. This
pre-eminence in social progression meant that societal arts were to develop
with greater speed and diversity there then in other European countries.
While England's staggering production levels in newly established factories
were sufficient for it to be labeled the "production capital of the world,"
the birth and nurturing of the Impressionist movement required the cultural
climate of France.
It is interesting to note how preceding artistic styles encouraged and made
way for one another and how these, in turn lead to Impressionism. While the
movements cannot be confined to an exact chronological timetable, they do
give some clues as to the artistic background in which Impressionism was
born. For example, Classicism was very influential.
This movement was widely
found throughout Europe in the post-renaissance period and is largely
considered one of the most influential precursors to Impressionism.
Since the eighteenth century, English artists had demonstrated an enthusiasm
towards painting the landscape. Distinctive atmospheres that were afforded
by the constantly changing nature of the landscape made way for a more
impressionistic approach to the canvas. J.M.W.Turner's Rain, Steam & Speed -
The Great Western Railway of 1844 gives one a good idea of how this
English genre obviously affected subsequent French artists.
Possibly the most obvious precedent to Impressionism was the art of the
Realists. Their fundamental objectives, "to open a window on the world," and
"to paint a message" were similar, in many ways to the ideals held by the
In 1855, a World Fair was held in Paris, a sequel to the original which had
taken place in London four years previously.