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  • Mark Reeves

What does impressionism mean to me?

Updated: Apr 20, 2018


The Blue Rigi, JMW Turner

I've been thinking about this question in response to the course notes. I've looked anew at the work of some very well known impressionist painters and of some pictorialist photographers (such as Edward Steichen and Alice Boughton) and, perhaps for the first time, believe that I've perceived their work in a new way.


But - probably way after everyone else - I've come to appreciate that impressionist painting doesn't just succeed in conveying what was seen but also what (I imagine) the artist felt. At least, such paintings usually evoke in me a sense of what it must have been like to have been stood where the artist stood at the time the created the painting. Like Turner's Blue Rigi above. To me, this painting evokes the thrill of the tranquility of an early morning by a lakeside in the mountains. Just a few birds, and maybe a few people, stirring in the silence while the mist still hangs over the water, soon to be burned off by the rising susun. This isn't just a picture - it's a mood. And this is something much more profound than just representing a scene in a very loose and imprecise way.


But - probably way after everyone else - I've come to appreciate that impressionist painting doesn't just succeed in conveying what was seen but also what (I imagine) the artist felt. At least, such paintings usually evoke in me a sense of what it must have been like to have been stood where the artist stood at the time the created the painting. Like Turner's Blue Rigi above. To me, this painting evokes the thrill of the tranquility of an early morning by a lakeside in the mountains. Just a few birds, and maybe a few people, stirring while the mist still hangs over the water, soon to be burned off by the rising su. This isn't just a picture - it's a mood. And this is something much more profound than just representing a scene in a very loose and imprecise way.


So could this be the key to understanding why some of my own images are, in my view, much better than others? Perhaps it's nothing to do with colour palettes, compositions or tonal ranges (although I am sure all of these are vitally important to the success of any image) but more to do with whether or not my photograph conveys a sense of "being there"?

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