Impression Sunrise

13 of the Most Famous Impressionist Paintings

Some of the most famous impressionist paintings have become images that have been etched in to the public consciousness.

However the were not well received by the critics of the day.

The impressionist distinguished themselves from more traditional art forms so much so that the initial reaction to the majority of impressionist paintings was highly negative.

Despite the initial rejection of their work the impressionist persevered and now some of the pieces are considered to be some of the most famous paintings ever produced.

Impressionist Paintings


1. Impression Sunrise

Impression Sunrise

Arguably the most famous of all impressionist paintings Impression Sunrise by Claude Monet is responsible for the actual name Impressionism.

Monet painted six separate canvases that depicted the port of Le Havre, France which is actually his home town.

Impression Sunrise is the most famous of the series and was first displayed along with works by other impressionist in 1874, critically this new style of painting had numerous critics.

The group of what become the most famous impressionist artists in question were resolutely rejected from the Paris Salon which drove them to create their own exhibition to showcase their work.

The work was said to typify the new art movement and it’s name is now synonymous with the style.

Ironically it does not embrace a lot of the style of impressionist art works as it displays a very restrained use of color and brush strokes.

2. The Starry Night

the starry night

The Starry Night by Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh is considered one of his most famous and the image is instantly recognizable.

Although Van Gogh would technically be considered a post-impressionist painter much of his work is still aligned squarely with the impressionist movement.

When Van Gogh painted Starry Night he was in the asylum Saint-Paul-de-Mausole near Saint-Remy-de-Provence at the time he had been suffering from paranoia and severe bouts of depression.

The scene is actually the view from the east facing window with the town added as what he had imagined an image of the ‘ideal village’ right before sunrise.

3. Luncheon of the Boating Party

In the Luncheon of the Boating Party Pierre-Auguste Renoir displayed three of his favored styles of painting: en plein air setting, portraiture and still life a combined with the artists refined brush work and exquisite color palette.

Not only is it Renoir’s most famous paintings it is also one of his largest measuring 129.9cm x 172.7cm.

It actually features the artists friends and his future wife enjoying lunch on a balcony at the restaurant Maison Fournaise on the banks of the Seine in Chatou, France.

The hand rail serves as a cut off point between the more empty left upper side of the picture which contains the river bank and the right hand side which is densely populated with figures.

4. Water Lilies

Throughout his life Monet painted several series of works that focused on a particular theme or subject matter.

Haystacks was one such series, however it is his large catalogue of water lilies that really stand out.

During his last thirty or so years of life Monet spent most of his time devoted to painting the lilies in his pond garden at his house in Giverny.

One such piece which is the largest tends to stand out as one of the best impressionist works of art that he is strongly noted for: Reflections of Clouds on the Water-Lily Pond.

It is widely considered one of the finest impressionism examples.

It is one of the largest impressionism paintings ever produced and measures a gargantuan 200 × 1276 cm laid out as a triptych each panel is 200cm x 424.8 cm.

It is a part of an installation in the Musee de l’Orangerie where eight compositions hand are set out in two consecutive oval rooms allowing the viewer to be almost completely immersed in some of the most famous Monet paintings.

5. A Bar at the Folies-Bergere

Édouard Manet died of syphilis  at the age of 51 a year earlier in 1882 he completed A Bar at the Folies-Bergère and it depicts one of the types of scenes that he would become known for namely every day leisure scenes.

It is actually the artists final large work and many consider it to be one of his best.

The image has often posed more questions than it answered as the perspective created by the mirror has been heavily debated as to it’s accuracy.

6. L’Absinthe

Degas painted L’Absinthe roughly around 1875 initially it was absolutely panned by critics and went back into storage several times.

The scene features a man and a woman in seated in a cafe drinking a glass of absinthe their expressions appear lethargic and sad.

For a women to be sat in a cafe drinking absinthe at the time was considered immoral, and many British critics at the time were outraged by the painting.

Degas unlike a lot of impressionist preferred more urban setting for his painting and the female model in the picture is also featured in his other works Plum Brandy and Chez le père Lathuille.

7. The Card Players

There are five paintings in the series of card players by Paul Cezanne which were completed in the early 1890’s.

Most of the individual paintings feature roughly the same scene with all of the characters playing cars with there eyes firmly fixated on the cards.

The paintings can be almost considered studies in still life with human objects as there is a very real lack of movement or life in any of the images.

The largest painting features five people in it, with three players in the foreground and two on lookers behind them.

Cezanne created dozens of exploratory sketches for the series many of which can be found in art galleries all over the world.

8. Dance at Le Moulin De La Galette 

Dance at Le Moulin De La Galette

Dance at Le moulin de la Galette is one of Renoir’s finest works and is considered one of the most famous impressionist paintings ever created.

Yet again the artist favors everyday scenes from French life and yet again his friends are some of the models in the painting rather than strangers.

A somewhat brighter yet smaller picture of the exact same scene was painted by Renoir and this painting is believed to reside in a private collection in Switzerland.

9. The Floor Scrapers

The Floor Scrapers was painted by Gustave Caillebotte in 1875 and one of the few impressionist paintings to make strong use of perspective and natural light.

The painting was not very well received by the art establishment of the day as it was rejected from the Paris Salon in 1875.

The reason it was rejected was the subject matter of the painting.

Three topless working class men are the focus of the painting and at the time both working class people executing their trade and the thought of a male being seen topless was considered vulgar by critics and the public alike.

10. Paris Street, Rainy Day

Another one of Gustave Caillebote’s works Paris Street Rainy Day is easily his best known impressionist painting.

As an artist he has always remained completely overshadowed by his contemporaries even though his work is on a par with some of the best impressionists.

Just like in The Floor Scrapers the artist makes great use of perspective to draw the viewers eye directly to the center of the building in the background.

11. The Dance Class

Degas painted a series of works that focused on ballet or more importantly on the practice and teaching of ballet.

Most of the scenes were in fact imaginary yet they contained people that had a name in the world of ballet.

One of the more complex pieces that Degas produced, it has more than twenty characters contained within it.

The famous ballet conductor Jules Perrot is the instructor in the scene and is a pivotal character the the eye is drawn to.

12. The Avenue in the Rain

Although most impressionist paintings are attributed to French artists there are still some other artists of note that are not French.

The American impressionist Childe Hassam is known for a series of works that feature the America flag decorating various streets.

Hassam has six pieces of art that belong to the permanent collection of the White House in Washington DC.

This piece in particular has been hung in the oval office for the past three presidential terms.

At the time of the painting there was a sense of growing patriotism in the USA as it was several years before the outbreak of world war one and flags would be routinely hung on some of the biggest streets in America.

13. Le Boulevard Montmartre

Pissaro was a major proponent of en plein air or outside painting of landscapes.

Towards the end of his life due to failing health he was forced to paint scenes from indoors many of which were of the Boulevart Montmartre painting the street in both night and day versions.

The painting is less concerned with the structure of the street and more so with the interplay of light.

This is one of the reasons why Pissaro would make several versions of his work including at night.