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French Impressionism Art Tour

Quick Details

Hour Glass 2 hours

Calendar See calendar as tour dates vary

Map Marker Meets inside lower level entrance at Constitution Avenue NW

Users Limited to 20 participants

Adult & Senior

Discover Washington, D.C.’s Impressionism Art

Explore the beauty of French Impressionism and Post Impressionism with our guided, small-group tour at the National Gallery of Art. Our 2-hour odyssey begins at the lower level constitution Avenue entrance to the National Gallery of Art. We will start the tour by taking a look at the iconic sculpture Little Dancer before moving into the National Gallery of Art Impressionism Exhibit Hall.

If you think your local art gallery is cutthroat, wait until you meet the French Salon of the early 1860s. It was a time when politics were as heavy and complicated as a layered chiffon skirt, and art was created and sold in the most structured ways. The change was ripe to occur. The art scene would be turned upside down by a group of unlikely renegades: a group of artists known as the French Impressionists. The artists of this French Impressionism movement were the radical and revolutionary thinkers of 19th century Paris. They rejected the conventional approaches of popular painters because they felt that art should reflect the world they experienced.

The work that emerged from these rogue painters was infused with lightness, energy, informality, and authenticity. Why? Because these artists of French Impressionism painted En Plein Air: they went out into the landscapes from which they were working to observe and paint the changing light and colors in real-time. The Impressionism art definition is widely talked about, and it is one of the most popular and beloved art movements to date. The National Gallery of Art has spectacular Impressionism and Post Impressionism artworks that will change the way you understand the Impressionism art definition.

We will walk you through the rise and fall of this fabulous art scene by looking at several iconic artists and their work:

Claude Monet lived from 1840-1926 and, in his life, changed the act of painting forever. Throughout our French Impressionism art tour, your tour guide, Meghan, will show you his painterly evolution and the shifts from traditionalism to radicalism in his approach. You will see the stark contrast of Bazille and Camille (Study for “Déjeuner sur l’Herbe”) (1865) and The House of Parliament, Sunset (1903). While he is famous for his waterlily paintings, Claude Monet brought peace and authenticity to all of his compositions through careful attention to light and color.

Auguste Renoir was a contemporary and friend of Claude Monet. The two men met in art school and then later staged the first French Impressionism exhibition together, along with several other contemporaries, in the spring of 1874. Renoir, unlike Monet, was much more engaged with figurative and portraiture work. Perhaps his most famous works, Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette (1876) and Luncheon of the Boating Party (1880-1881), dealt with moving figures and shifting light. The paintings are like photographs of a moment in time; we all get to go back to that cultural and historical moment. Renoir was unique in that his work returned to a much more traditional, classical style after his French Impressionism art. Follow the arc of his post Impressionism art and the shifts in his color and compositional choices.

George Seurat was alive from 1859-1891 and, in his brief lifetime, made an indelible mark on painting. Though his collection of works is somewhat limited, he was a major Post Impressionist painter. He made revolutionary strides in the art of pointillism, a method of painting consisting of millions of tiny vibrant and colorful dots being laid in strategic coordinating sections. The result of this pointillism technique was an optical illusion that creates convincing landscapes.

While he was a troubled man for most of his life (he’s known for cutting off his ear), Vincent Van Gogh was also perhaps the most famous Post Impressionism painter of the movement. His work catapulted the art world from French Impressionism to Post Impressionism with ease. The differences between French Impressionism and Post Impressionism can be tricky to decipher. Vincent Van Gogh, George Seurat, and their contemporaries reacted to the stylistic choices of French Impressionism’s painters. In response, they created fascinating extensions and translations of the French Impressionism principles and ideas. As you will learn about George Seurat’s pointillism, you will learn about Vincent Van Gogh’s bold colors, thick paint application, and diverse compositions.

Amidst the stories of these four significant artists, Meghan will weave together the works and lives of other influential French Impressionists and Post Impressionists, including Edouard Manet, Eugene Boudin, Mary Cassatt, Paul Cezanne, Paul Gauguin, Camille Pissaro, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Our small group will discover the close friendships, few power brokers, and technical advances that allowed this powder keg of innovation to explode in the late 19th century.