A label applied to a loose group of mostly French artists who positioned themselves outside of the official Salon exhibitions organized by the Académie des Beaux-Arts. Rejecting established styles, the Impressionists began experimenting in the early 1860s with a brighter palette of pure unblended colors, synthetic paints, sketchy brushwork, and subject matter drawn from their direct observations of nature and of everyday life in and around Paris. They worked out of doors, the better to capture the transient effects of sunlight on the scenes before them. With their increased attention to the shifting patterns of light and color, their brushwork became rapid, broken into separate dabs that better conveyed the fleeting quality of light.
In 1874, they held their first group exhibition in Paris. Most critics derided their work, especially Claude Monet’s Impression, Sunrise (1872), which was called a sketch or impression, rather than a finished painting. From this criticism, they were mockingly labeled Impressionists. They continued exhibiting together until 1886, at which point many of the core artists were taking their work in new directions.