Arts: Music/ Impressionism term paper 15016

Arts: Music term papers
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Impressionism relates to a style of painting and composing from the last third of the 19th century. It was started by Claude Monet and his paintings and then worked its way into Debussy’s compositions. In painting terms this style was characterized by “short brush strokes of bright colors…to represent the effect of light on an object”(Wechsler 6). The music of the impressionist composers contained “hidden” images and portrayed “reality” through music. The impressionist era was based mainly on light and the concept of reality and used nature as a background and ordinary subjects as the foreground.

Impressionist works of music contained some of the same characteristics of impressionist painting. It was the breaking away from classical techniques that mainly characterized impressionism. Debussy is to impressionist music as Monet is to painting, in that they are both the founders of their medium in which they portray the impressionist style. Impressionist music was like the paintings; they stirred emotions in the viewers and the listeners.

Debussy never considered himself an Impressionist, he considered himself a “Realist”. (Classical 1) Since he never socialized with the impressionists at their cafés and their meetings, he isn’t really considered an impressionist, although his style and works are closely similar to those of the impressionists. Debussy laid the foundation for later styles of music; he is noted as laying the foundation for jazz with his “different” chords (Classical 1). Debussy was known at the time as being a rebel with his music, because he followed no composition technique and his chords were distinctive and new.

Claude Monet is known as the father of Impressionism. He not only gave the name to the style, he lived this new style. The name that he gave to a painting for a gallery was “Imprsessions: Soleil Levant” which in turn became the name for the style and era. Monet like the other impressionist painters believed in “sur – le – motif” which means painting on the spot, not in a studio (Wechsler 58). Monet mainly focused on light, and “analyzed the effects of changing light, in order to capture the changing conditions” (Web Museum 1). He would paint in solid colors to intensify the effects of light.

The impressionist movement at first was mocked and made fun of by its critics. The critics claimed the works to be sloppy. It has now left an impact on the way that artists and musicians write and paint. This could be the reason that the paintings of this period are some of the most prized paintings in the world. The Impressionist movement stirred emotions from the plain and ordinary subjects that were painted, with variations in light and shadows.


Works Cited

1. Wechsler, Herman. French Impressionists. Abrams, 1953.

2. The National Gallery: Exhibitions.

3. Web Museum, Paris.

4. Classical Music Pages.

Word Count: 445


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