We all know something about the famous 19th-century Impressionist painters, but who were they? Here’s a quick guide so you can impress your friends with your knowledge of one of the world’s greatest (and favourite) art movements.

Impressionist Painters Edouard Manet: Bar at the folies bergere with woman in black dress with plunging neckline and wearing choker behind bar with painted background, bottles and in front of small bar
Édouard Manet: Bar at the Folies Bergère. Public domain. Courtauld Institute

Impressionism as an art form is generally taken to start on the evening of April 15, 1874, when a group of young, struggling and unknown painters put on a show of their work in the studio of the photographer Félix Nadar at 35 boulevard des Capucines in Paris. The group included Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Berthe Morisot, Claude Monet, Camille Pissaro, Alfred Sisley and Paul Cézanne. They were showing works that had been rejected by the official Académie des Beaux-Arts Salon.  

Claude Monet: Soleil Levant (Sunrise). Public domain.  Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris

The word ‘Impressionist’ was first coined by the French art critic Louis Leroy who hated the new style of art.  Derisively titling his article The Exhibition of the Impressionists, Leroy declared that Monet’s painting of Soleil Levant was at most, a sketch, and could hardly be termed a finished work. He wrote ‘Impression—I was certain of it. I was just telling myself that, since I was impressed, there had to be some impression in it…and what freedom, what ease of workmanship! Wallpaper in its embryonic state is more finished than that seascape’. Little did he know.

Pre-Impressionist Painters

Boudin painting of Empress Eugenie at Deauville with big sky and beach with group of women brightly dressed and two to left
Empress Eugenie at Deauville by Boudin © Glasgow Life

By the mid 1850s a new style was sweeping through the French art world. It was influenced by artists like the Romantic colourist Eugène Delacroix; the leader of the Realists, Gustave Courbet, and painters of the Barbizon school like Johan Barthold Jongkind, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot and Eugène Boudin. They had all begun to paint outdoors (en plein air) directly from nature in a spontaneous style. This group of artists befriended, advised and inspired the artists who came to define Impressionism.

Impressionist painters. Gustave Courbet Snow with snow on big bank beside snowy road and trees leaning over. Feeling of cold
Gustave Courbet: Snow. Public domain. Frankfurt Museum

Major Pre-Impressionist Painters

Jean-François Millet

Jean Francois Millet's painting The Gleaners with three women in long skirts and turbans bending over picking up straw from the ground with buildings in background
Jean François Millet The Gleaners. Public domain. Musée d’Orsay

Jean-François Millet (October 4, 1814-January 20, 1875) was one of the founders of the Barbizon School which flourished between 1830 and 1870. Millet moved to Barbizon in 1849, when he and his fellow artists were painting landscapes and scenes of rural life; Millet himself is noted for his paintings of peasant farmers. He is known best for his oil paintings but he also produced pastels, Conté crayon drawings and etchings.
He is buried in the graveyard at Chailly-en-Biere, Seine-et-Marne, Île-de-France

Charles-François Daubigny

Charles-François Daubigny: Harvest. Landscape with half sky and half field of straw with trees in background and figures picking the crop with houses in background
Charles-François Daubigny: Harvest. Public domain. Musée d’Orsay

Charles-François Daubigny (February 15, 1817-February 19, 1878) was known both as a painter and printmaker, mostly in the art of etching.  Born into a family of painters, he moved to Barbizon in 1843 and meeting Camille Corot and Gustave Courbet, his style changed from the traditional to working in the open air. He turned his boat into a studio and painted along the Seine and Oise, often around Auvers. He met Claude Monet in London in 1870 and later Paul Cézanne and influenced them both.
He is buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris.

Eugène Boudin

Eugène Bpudin: Berck Fishermen at Low Tide showing sandy beach with large fish8ing boat with masts but no sails, another on water and figures on sand and in sea around boat
Eugène Boudin: Berck Fishermen at Low Tide. Public domain. Athenaeum

Eugène Boudin (July 12, 1824-August 8, 1898) was born in Honfleur, the son of a harbour pilot. His love of painting sea and sky began when at age 10 he worked on a steamboat that plied its passage between Le Havre and Honfleur. He believed that one brushstroke the artist did outdoors was of more use than two days in the studio. He was a major influence on Claude Monet. Camille Corot called Boudin ‘the King of the Skies’.
He is buried in Saint-Vincent cemetery in Montmartre, Paris.

Édouard Manet

Edouard Manet: Luncheon on the Grass painting with naked lady in front sitting with two men at picnic in leafy setting
Édouard Manet: Luncheon on the Grass. Public domain. Musée d’Orsay

Édouard Manet (January 23, 1832-April 30, 1883) was one of the most influential of the Pre-Impressionist painters moving on from Realism. He was born into an upper-class family, and rejecting their choice of the navy as a career, turned to painting. In 1863, his major work, The Luncheon on the Grass (Le dejeuner sur l’herbe) or Olympia was rejected by the Academy of Fine Arts because it showed a nude woman with two clothed men at a picnic. It became one of the many paintings considered the watershed works that marked the beginnings of modern art. He painted a wide variety of subjects, from Paris café life to scenes of contemporary wars, from Paris streets to small still lifes.
He is buried in Passy cemetery, Paris.

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot

Camille Corot: Narni Bridge showing early Impressionist painting with moutains in background, curving river in middle and bridge and houses on left side and trees on right bank
Camille Corot: The Narni Bridge. Public domain. Louvre

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (July 16, 1796-February 22, 1875). Corot’s father wanted him to become a draper, but at the age of 26 he decided it was not for him.  ‘I told my father that business and I were simply incompatible, and that I was getting a divorce.’
Despite this, his father gave him a yearly allowance so he could afford a studio, materials and travel unlike many of his fellow Impressionists.
From 1825 to 1828 he was in Italy, producing over 200 drawings and 150 paintings. In 1829 he was in Barbizon, meeting the members of the Barbizon school. 
He produced a huge amount of works, mainly landscapes in a style that still echoed the Neo-Classical tradition while anticipating open air Impressionism art. He was very successful and extremely generous to his fellow artists and their relatives, for instance, giving Millet’s widow 10,000 francs to support her and her children after her husband died.
He is buried in Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris.

Eugène Delacroix

Eugène Delacroix: Liberty leading the People. Woman dominant in centre of crowd above all others holding up French tricolour and boy to her left
Eugène Delacroix: Liberty leading the People. Public domain. Louvre

Eugène Delacroix (April 26, 1798-August 13, 1863) was regarded as the leader of the French Romantic school, inspired by Rubens and the Venetian Renaissance painters. His dramatic works were expressive and his use of colour influenced the future Impressionists. He painted numerous religious works plus over 100 paintings from his trips to Spain and north Africa.
Delacroix’s most influential work came in 1830 with the painting Liberty Leading the People. The boy holding a pistol aloft on the right is sometimes thought to be an inspiration for the Gavroche character in Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel Les Misérables.
He is buried in Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris.

Johan Barthold Jongkind

Johan Barthold Jongkind painting of river with big boat and church tower on left; moody, sombre colours
Johan Barthold Jongkind. Public domain. Rijks Museum

Johan Barthold Jongkind (June 3, 1819-February 9, 1891) was a Dutch painter and printmaker who influenced the Impressionists as much by his teaching as by his paintings (mainly marine landscapes). In 1862 in Honfleur he made friends with Alfred Sisley, Eugène Boudin and the young Claude Monet, who described him as ‘…a quiet man with such a talent that is beyond words’.  He moved to the small town of La Côte-Saint-André near Grenoble in Isère.
He died in 1891 and is buried in the cemetery of La Côte-Saint-André.

Impressionist Painters

Jacob Abraham Camille Pissarro

Camille Pissarro Road to Versailles painting showing big sky with white clouds, talle tres on two sides of snowy road with houses to left and people walking along road
Camille Pissarro: Road to Versailles. Public domain. Walters Art Museum

Jacob Abraham Camille Pissarro (July 10, 1830-November 13, 1903). A Danish-French Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist painter, he was influenced by Courbet and Corot, then worked with Georges Seurat and Paul Signac in the Neo-Impressionist style. 
He was a great mentor as Paul Cézanne remarked: ‘He was a father for me. A man to consult and a little like the good Lord’. Pierre-Auguste Renoir referred to his work as ‘revolutionary’.
Pissarro is the only artist to have shown his work at all eight Paris Impressionist exhibitions, from 1874 to 1886.
In the late 1860s, Pissarro became fascinated with Japanese prints, leading him to experiment in new compositions. He turned his back on Neo-Impressionism in the 1880s.
He is buried in  Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris.

Hilaire-Germain-Edgar De Gas

Dancers by Edgar Debas showing dancers in tutus practising in large room with huge windows
Edgar Degas. Public domain. Fogg Museum

Hilaire-Germain-Edgar De Gas (Degas, July 19, 1834-September 27, 1917) is best known for his pastel drawings and oil paintings, particularly of dancers. He helped organise the early Impressionist exhibitions, but never regarded himself as one of them. He despised the idea of working in the open air: ‘You know what I think of people who work out in the open. If I were the government I would have a special brigade of gendarmes to keep an eye on artists who paint landscapes from nature. Oh, I don’t mean to kill anyone; just a little dose of bird-shot now and then as a warning’.
It was his Parisian scenes, his off-centre compositions, his way of dealing with colour and form and his relationship with the Impressionist artists, most notably Mary Cassatt and Manet, which link him to Impressionism.
He is buried in  Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris.

Oscar-Claude Monet

Claude Monet painting of the facade of Reouen Cathedral showing the portal in the sun
Claude Monet: Rouen Cathedral. Public domain. Musée Marmottan Monet

Oscar-Claude Monet (November 14, 1840-December 5, 1926) is the most famous of the Impressionist painters. He’s seen as a key precursor to modernism, painting nature as he saw it, particularly en plein air (outdoor) landscapes and was influenced early in his career by Boudin. The term Impressionism is derived from the title of his painting Impression, soleil levant, exhibited in 1874 (the ‘exhibition of rejects’) initiated by Monet and his associates as an alternative to the official Salon.
The family moved to Argenteuil in 1871 then from 1883, Monet lived in Giverny. He began to transform the property and garden, including the famous water-lily pond.
The painter wanted to document the French countryside and sights, capturing the changing of light and seasons by using the same subject many times throughout the year. The best known are his series of haystacks  (1890–1891), Rouen Cathedral (1892–1894), and the paintings of water lilies in his garden in Giverny. He was a success during his lifetime and after, becoming one of the world’s most famous painters.
He is buried in Giverny churchyard.
Monet Foundation Museum, Giverny

Pierre-August Renoir

Renoir Impressionist painter: Le Moulin de la Galette painting of many people outside with couple in front. All in beautiful costumes and crowded
Renoir: Le Moulin de la Galette. Public domain. Musée d’Orsay

Pierre-August Renoir (February 25, 1841- December 3, 1919). The leading Impressionist painter is known for his sensual pictures of women and delightful outdoor scenes. Influenced by Pissarro and Manet, he became successful relatively early on in his life. In 1890 he married Aline Victorine Charigot, twenty years his junior and painted her many times. In 1907, suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, he moved to Cagnes-sur-Mer in Provence.
His children included actor Pierre Renoir (1885–1952), filmmaker Jean Renoir (1894–1979) and ceramic artist Claude Renoir (1901–1969). He was the grandfather of the filmmaker Claude Renoir (1913–1993), son of Pierre.
He is buried in Essoyes, Aube.
Visit Renoir’s family home and studio in the small town of Essoyes in Champagne.

Alfred Sisley

Impressionist Painters Alfred sisley Weir at Molseley, Hampton Court with weir gushing water and trees and church spire in background on edge of top lake
Alfred Sisley: Molesley Weir, Hampton Court. Public domain. National Gallery of Scotland

Alfred Sisley (October 30, 1839-January 29, 1899). Born in Paris to wealthy British parents, Sisley spent most of his life in France but made significant trips to Britain. Of all the Impressionist painters, Sisley was the most dedicated proponent of plein air landscape painting. 
He painted the River Thames mostly around Hampton Court, East Molesey and Thames Ditton. 
Until 1880, Sisley lived and worked in the country west of Paris; then he and his family moved to a small village near Moret-sur-Loing,  close to the forest of Fontainebleau and near Barbizon. 
On August 5, 1897, Sisley and his partner married in Cardiff Register Office. They stayed in Penarth and Langland Bay on the Gower Peninsula, again producing notable landscapes. Sisley is also known for his paintings of the Seine and its bridges.
He is buried at Moret-sur-Loing.
Château at Fontainebleau

Frédéric Bazille

Frédéric Bazille: Basille's Studio with large studio with big windows; 3 men around 1 painter, man playing piano and man on steps to bookshelves on left
Frédéric Bazille: Bazille’s Studio.  Pierre-Auguste Renoir sits near the stairs; Édouard Manet stands next to the painter. Public domain. Musée d’Orsay

Frédéric Bazille (December 6, 1841-November 28, 1870). In 1862 Bazille moved to Paris, met Renoir and Sisley and began taking art classes. In 1864 he began painting full-time. Less well known than his peers, his close friends included Monet, Sisley and Manet.
He was relatively wealthy and helped support other artists by giving them space in his studio and materials to use. Many of Bazille’s major works are examples of figure painting where he placed the subject figure within a landscape painted outdoors.  
He fought in the Franco-Prussian war and was killed leading an assault against the Germans.
His father took his body back to be buried in Montpellier’s Protestant cemetery.

Gustave Caillebotte

Rainy Day by Gustave Caillebotte Impressionist showing two well dressed 19th century people under an umbrella in a raily Paris cobbled street with buildings behind
Rainy Day by Gustave Caillebotte. Public domain. Art Institute of Chicago

Gustave Caillebotte (August 19, 1848-February 21, 1894) belonged to the Impressionist painters circle, but his paintings were more realistic than the others, possibly due to his interest in photography as an art form. His styles of painting varied considerably, following those of his peers, Millet and Courbet, as well his contemporary, Degas. He painted domestic scenes, often depicting his relatives. He is best known for his paintings of urban Paris. 
In 1881, Caillebotte bought a house in Petit-Gennevilliers, on the banks of the Seine near Argenteuil, moving there permanently in 1888. 
He is buried in  Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris.
Visit his house and museum.

Female Impressionist Painters: Les Trois Grandes Dames (The Three Great Ladies)

Les trois grandes dames (the three great ladies) was the collective name given by Gustave Geffroy to the three great female Impressionist painters.

Black and white photo of Mary Cassatt, Impressionist painter in 1913. Sitting in chair in garden, dressed in black with umbrella beside chair
Mary Cassatt in 1913

Mary Stevenson Cassatt

Mary Cassatt: Lydia at the Tapestry Loom with lady in brighly colouored, red and orange dress sitting sideways at a large loom concentratin on her weaving
Mary Cassatt. Lydia at the Tapestry Loom. Public domain

Mary Stevenson Cassatt (May 22, 184-June 14, 1926). Born in Pennysylvania, Mary Cassat lived mostly in France. Her works, particularly pastels, concentrated on women – mothers and children and women’s private lives. 
She was invited to exhibit with the Impressionists in 1877 by Degas, who became her lifelong friend. One critic later wrote: ‘M. Degas and Mlle. Cassatt are…the only artists who distinguish themselves…and who offer some attraction and some excuse in the pretentious show of window dressing and infantile daubing.’ Faint praise indeed. 
She is buried in Le Mesnil-Théribus, Oise, Hauts-de-France.

Berthe Marie Pauline Morisot

Female Impressionist painters: Berthe Morisot with woman and child on balcony. Woman in black looking over balcony at scene of Venic lagoon, with small child beside her in white dress
Berthe Morisot: Woman and Child on the Balcony. Public domain Artizon Museum

Berthe Marie Pauline Morisot (January 14, 1841-March 2, 1895). The great niece of Rococo artist Jean-François Fragonard, she learnt to draw by the common practice of copying pictures at the Louvre. In 1861 she met Camille Corot and took up plein air painting.
She met Edouard Manet in 1868, and married his brother Eugene Manet in 1874. That same year she showed her work at the ‘rejected’ Impressionist exhibition of 1874, the first of many such exhibitions.
She is buried in Passy cemetery, Paris. 

Marie Bracquemond

Marie Bracquemond Inpressionist painter.Under the Lamp with man and woman sitting at table laid with food.
Marie Bracquemond: Under the Lamp. Public domain. Mr and Mrs R Stephens-Phillips

Marie Bracquemond (December 1, 1840 -January 17, 1916). Marie Bracquemond learnt from Ingres (1780-1867), and Gauguin (1848–1903). She married the printmaker Felix Bracquemond who helped popularize Japanese art in France. She produced at least 157 original works but only 31 have been located in existing collections.
She is buried in the cemetery at Bruyères, Saint Omer.

Post-Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist Painters

Neo-Impressionism is a term coined by French art critic Félix Fénéon in 1886 to describe an art movement founded by Georges Seurat. Seurat’s most renowned masterpiece, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, marked the beginning of this movement when the painting made its first appearance at an exhibition of the Société des Artistes Indépendants (Salon des Indépendants) in Paris.
There are many overlaps between the two movements so I have put both these kinds of Impressionist Painters here.
Here’s a good article explaining some of the differences between Impressionism and Neo-Impressionism.

Georges Seurat

Painting of Sunday on La Grande Jatte by Georges Suerat launching pointillisme. Painting of thousands of little dots showing ladies, men and families beside the water with trees shading front of picture and lady with parasol in middle and ladies with bustles at back of dresses on right
A Sunday on La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat. Public domain. Art Institute of Chicago

Georges Seurat (December 2, 1859-March 29, 1891) is known as the main founder of Post-Impressionist painting and the creator of pointillism. His large-scale work (3.0m; 10ft wide) A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884–1886) was a revelation, initiating the new Neo-Impressionist movement. It’s one of the icons of late 19th-century painting and took Seurat two years to complete. The painting was the inspiration for James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim’s  musical Sunday in the Park with George.  
Seurat died in Paris in his parents’ home at the age of 31 of a disease which has never been fully identified.  His son died two weeks later from the same disease.
He is buried in  Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris.

Vincent van Gogh

Van Gogh's Starry Night over the Rhone showing mainly dark blue painting with hazy building in front and stars and the moon on dark blue sky with hazy sea to right
Van Gogh: Starry Night over the Rhône Public domain

Vincent van Gogh (March 30, 1853-July 29, 1890). One of the best known, and most influential Post-Impressionist painters, van Gogh led a tortured life. From a middle-class family, he had a variety of work until taking to painting in 1881. His first subjects were mainly still lifes and peasant labourers. He moved to Paris  in 1886, meeting Émile Bernard and Paul Gauguin. In 1888 he moved to Arles where his style changed and he painted local olive groves, wheat fields and sunflowers.
Gauguin joined him but the friendship ended in a furious confrontation with a razor when van Gogh cut off his left ear. Having suffered most of his life from psychotic episodes, he spent time in mental hospitals. On July 27, 1890 he shot himself in the chest with a revolver and died 2 days later.
The artist who influenced so many painters produced around 2,100 works, including 860 oil paintings, many in the last two years of his life. But during his lifetime, only one of his paintings, The Red Vineyard was sold. 
He is buried in Auvers-sur-Oise cemetery in Paris.

Read about the life of van Gogh in Paris where he lived under the rooftops with his brother.

Van Gogh Boulevard de Clichy showing view down road from place de clichy with tall buildings to right and statue in middle of square
Boulevard de Clichy by van Gogh Public domain

Paul Cézanne

Paul Cézanne Mont Sainte-Victoire original painting with blocks of colour and green and uyellowlandscape in foreground and mountain in back
Paul Cézanne: Mont Sainte-Victoire Public domain. Philadelphia Museum of Art

Paul Cézanne (19 January 1839 – 22 October 1906) was born and lived most of his life in Aix-en-Provence. He refused to become a banker, as his father had wanted, took evening classes and in 1861 left Aix for Paris. He was refused entry into the École des Beaux-Arts but became friends with Camille Pissarro, and later with Claude Monet, Renoir and Sisley. He was not universally popular; Manet called the shy and socially gauche man ‘a mason who paints with a trowel’.
He went through various different styles of painting, later rejecting Impressionism. His emphasis on geometric shapes had a profound influence on later artists like Picasso and the new art of Cubism.
Despite Cezanne turning his back on the Impressionists and following his own particular style, which was particularly hated in Aix, his paintings became more sought after during his lifetime, though not approaching the prices paid for paintings by Manet, Monet or Renoir.
He is buried in Saint-Pierre Cemetery, Aix.
Visit the Atelier de Cezanne

Maximilien Luce

Impressionist Painter Maximilien Luce: Gare de l'est, 1917. Musee de l'Hotel Dieu. Grand facade (same today) in background with lots of people all dressed in winter clothes in front on snowy pavement
Maximilien Luce: Gare de l’est, 1917. Public domain. Musee de l’Hotel Dieu

Maximilien Luce (March 13, 1858-February 6, 1941) was known for his paintings, his graphic art, and his anarchist actions. He trained as a wood-engraver from the age of 14. He then went on to painting, firstly as an Impressionist, then from 1884 as a Pointillist, influenced by Seurat, before going back to Impressionism.
One critic, from the New York Times, wrote that this Pointillist period was the height of Luce’s career. He described the 1895 painting On the Bank of the Seine at Poissy as ‘a lyrical celebration of nature.’
Luce took many different subjects in his works, mostly landscapes, but also portraits, still lifes, domestic scenes and images of working men like rolling mill operators.
He is buried in Rolleboise, Yvelines, Ile-de-France.

Maurice Denis

Impressionist painter Maurice Denis September Evening with two ladies sitting opposite each other on stone terrace with background of people and hills in far distance. Japanese influence
Maurice Denis: September Evening. Public domain. Musée d’Orsay

Maurice Denis (November 25, 1870-November 13, 1943). An important figure in the period when Impressionism gave way to modern art, Denis is associated with Les Nabis, Symbolism and later Neo-classicism. His theories contributed to the foundations of Cubism, Fauvism and Abstract art. 
Religion was his other passion. In 1885 he recorded in his personal journal how much he admired the colours, candle light and incense of the ceremonies at his local church. After World War I he founded the Ateliers d’Art Sacré (Workshops of Sacred Art). 
In 1890 he and other artists like Bonnard, Vuillard and Paul Ranson formed a group they called the Nabis, taken from the Hebrew word Nabi, which means prophet. 
He decorated a number of churches and was also commissioned to decorate important civic buildings in the 1920s and 30s.
Maurice Denis house and museum in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Paris

Pierre Bonnard

Impressionist painter Pierre Bonnard:Nude lady standing sideways next to tub on left and sofa on right with towels with window in background
Pierre Bonnard: Nude, 1913. Public domain. Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium

Pierre Bonnard (October 3, 1867-January 23, 1947) was a founding member of the Post-Impressionist group of the avant-garde painters called Les Nabis. Influenced by Paul Gauguin and the prints of Japanese artists like Hokusai, Bonnard was known for his decorative paintings and bold use of colour. As such he was a leading figure in the move from Impressionism to Modernism. 
During World War I, Bonnard concentrated on nudes and portraits, and large compositions. He became part of the French art establishment and in 1918 he was selected, along with Renoir, as an honorary President of the Association of Young French Artists
He is buried in the Cimetière des Anges (Le Cannet, Alpes-Maritimes), beside his wife, Marthe.

More about Normandy and Impressionist Painters

Normandy Impressionist Festival 2024
Normandy and Impressionism – A general overall look at the great Impressionist art movement and what to see in Normandy
Normandy Travel Guide – What to see and Do
Getting to Normandy

Regions of France

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