2 Unique Characteristics of Impressionist Artwork

If you've ever seen an impressionist painting in person, you know there's something special about them. Even if you're unfamiliar with the term impressionism, you can still appreciate how these paintings uniquely capture light and motion. Take a closer look at some specific characteristics that make impressionist artwork distinctive.

They Use Short, Visible Brushstrokes

Among the most distinctive features of impressionist paintings is the short, visible brushstrokes that the artists use. This feature contrasts the longer, smoother brushstrokes used in other painting styles.

The brushstrokes are meant to be seen as a whole rather than individually, and they help to create a sense of movement and light. When used skillfully, the brushstrokes can add depth and dimension to a painting. They can also convey a sense of immediacy and spontaneity, which is often associated with the impressionist style. 

When purchasing an impressionist artwork, you might want to look for these brushstrokes when assessing a painting. Examine how the artist has used light and color to create a sense of movement. And pay attention to the overall effect of the brushstrokes on the painting. In doing so, you'll get a better sense of the artist's style and technique.

They Use a Limited Palette

In art, a limited palette refers to the use of a small number of colors in a painting or other work of art. The term is most often used in relation to impressionist artwork, which is characterized by its soft, dreamlike quality.

Impressionist artists use a small range of colors so they can focus on creating an effect or mood rather than getting bogged down in the details. It also creates a harmonious look, as all the colors work well together. Another reason for using a limited palette is that it can be quicker and easier to mix colors when there are fewer choices. That means the artist can work more spontaneously and effectively capture the moment.

You may spot a limited palette by looking at the areas of flat color. This feature is especially common in landscapes, where impressionists may use a single color to represent large swathes of land. This flat color might then be broken up by flecks of other colors, giving the illusion of movement and light.

Understanding these techniques makes it possible to spot a limited palette even in the most abstract impressionist painting.

Pro-tip: If you're interested in purchasing an impressionist artwork, be sure to ask the seller about the artist's use of color. They should be able to tell you whether a limited palette was used, and if so, why. Reach out to an impressionist artwork seller to learn more.