[ im-presh-uh-niz-uhm ]

  1. Fine Arts.

    • (usually initial capital letter) a style of painting developed in the last third of the 19th century, characterized chiefly by short brush strokes of bright colors in immediate juxtaposition to represent the effect of light on objects.

    • a manner of painting in which the forms, colors, or tones of an object are lightly and rapidly indicated.

    • a manner of sculpture in which volumes are partially modeled and surfaces roughened to reflect light unevenly.

  2. a theory and practice in literature that emphasizes immediate aspects of objects or actions without attention to details.

  1. a late-19th-century and early-20th-century style of musical composition in which lush harmonies, subtle rhythms, and unusual tonal colors are used to evoke moods and impressions.

Origin of impressionism

1880–85; impression + -ism; compare German Impressionismus,French impressionnisme

Words Nearby impressionism Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use impressionism in a sentence

  • French masterpieces impressionism and the rest of it did not interest him to-night.

    Peter | F. Hopkinson Smith

British Dictionary definitions for impressionism


/ (ɪmˈprɛʃəˌnɪzəm) /

  1. (often capital) a movement in French painting, developed in the 1870s chiefly by Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, and Sisley, having the aim of objectively recording experience by a system of fleeting impressions, esp of natural light effects

  2. the technique in art, literature, or music of conveying experience by capturing fleeting impressions of reality or of mood

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Cultural definitions for impressionism


A style of painting associated mainly with French artists of the late nineteenth century, such as Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Impressionist painting seeks to re-create the artist's or viewer's general impression of a scene. It is characterized by indistinct outlines and by small brushstrokes of different colors, which the eye blends at a distance. Soft, pastel colors appear frequently in impressionist paintings.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.