Psychology of Impressionist Art


Impressionist artists present sense perceptions of a moment's experience. Using pattern and pure color, their paintings make nature and bourgeoisie life clear to the viewer's eye.

The Inner Experience

Impressionists, like Gustave Caillebotte, departed from traditional arts in the 18th century that framed realistic forms. They turned their attention to the subjective inner experience.

Instantaneous Moments

Quickly done in fresh paint, the paintings reflect playful light to represent the brief activity in a moment's experience.

Familiar Exposure

The Musee d'Orsay housed exemplary works by Caillebotte, Monet and Renoir that contained images that could be often seen in impressionist pieces. Visiting the museum to view train station triangles, chair squares and oval hats in "La Gare Saint-Lazare" and "Bal du Moulin de la Galette" made patrons familiar with these life images, encouraging them to decide to prefer them, a social psychological phenomenon.

Optical Reality

Painted patterns in light and shadow cast images to the eye that seem like the shapely figures seen in the actual scene.


Colorful dabs on canvas, pure in hue, make up the definite patches of a whole sensible experience in full light so the viewer can imagine the whole scene.


  • The French Impressionists (1860-1900); Camille Mauclair; 1903
  • Impressionism in Art
  • Psychonomic Bulletin & Review; Gustave Caillebotte, French Impressionism and mere exposure; James E. Cutting; 2003
Keywords: moment, colorful dabs, optical, familiar image, experience

About this Author

Adam Benjamin Pollack is a San Diego native dedicated to the great sentences on civil society. He authored the Subchapter S Report to tell legal news for the American Bankers Association. He holds a Juris Doctor from Indiana University and a Master of Public Policy from University of California, Berkeley.

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