Claude Monet, Water Lilies, 1914-1915, Impressionism
Art Exhibition,  Art in Europe,  English

Impressionism: a Disney movie without all of the singing

Nature? Good. Romance? I can dig it. Impressionism? Bite me. You know what Impressionism is? It’s a beautiful, made-up, dream-like view at an otherwise harsh, sometimes cruel reality. Impressionism is to art viewers what Disney movies are to the generation of 20-somethings that grew up expecting perfect hair, woodland friends, and Prince Charming – not to mention the desire to go around singing about everything all of the damn time.

Berthe Morisot, On the Lake, 1884.
Oil on canvas, 60 x 73 cm.
Private collection.

Impressionism (literally) paints everything in these bright, vibrant colours of airy, almost carefree delight. The content matter is a dance here, a pond there, some lilies on the side. If real life were full of dances, ponds, and lilies, surely there’d be a lot more singing going on. You can argue that Impressionism isn’t meant to depict the image as much as it’s meant to depict the feeling of a time and place. To which I say: poppycock. Does anyone say poppycock anymore?

Claude Monet, Water Lilies and Japanese Bridge
Claude Monet, Water Lilies and Japanese Bridge, 1899.
Oil on canvas, 90.5 x 89.7 cm.
Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton (New Jersey).

Where’s the dirt? The grit? Ponds have scum, dances end, and lilies – alright, I’ve got nothing bad to say about lilies. From afar, you see all of this vibrance and light, but I challenge you to step up to an Impressionist painting, let your noses touch. Not so pretty anymore, is it? You feel a bit lost, like what on earth have you delved into; where might you be going? Did someone slip something into your tea?

Claude Monet, Seagulls, the Thames in London, the Houses of Parliament, 1904.
The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow.

Generally, I would say run in the other direction, but we all know the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza is known for exceptional things. So schlep over to the Impressionism and Open-Air Painting exhibit through 1 May. If you find Impressionism as tedious as I do, then Impressionism by Nathalia Brodskaya (available on is not for you – HOWEVER, if you disagree with me and like a dream-like state induced by vibrant colours, then it IS for you – so buy it.

-Le Lorrain Andrews

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