Did Van Gogh Or Monet Start The Impressionist Movement?

Did Van Gogh Or Monet Start The Impressionist Movement?

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As both Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh are considered influential artists in the Impressionism and Post-Impressionism movements, there can be some confusion about who helped start the actual Impressionism movement.

Claude Monet was the founder of the Impressionist movement; his painting Impression: Sunrise (1872) is the painting the Impressionism movement was named after. Vincent Van Gogh is referred to as a post-impressionist. Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh were known to admire each other’s art.

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Claude Monet Is Considered The Founder Of The Impressionist Art Movement

In 1874 a group of artists called the Anonymous Society of Painters, Sculptors, and Printmakers organized an exhibition in Paris. They organized this exhibition because the Salon of the French Academy had consistently rejected their artwork.

Sunrise (8172) By Claude Monet

In this exhibition, Claude Monet showed a painting called Impression: Sunrise (1872). The French Journalist Louis Leroy saw the painting and the name of the painting; he coined the phrase “Impressionists or Impressionism” to describe the new art movement.

The name caught on and many Impressionism artists like Claude Monet, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, Berthe Morisot, Armand Guillaumin, Edouard Manet, Frederic Bazille, Edgar Degas and Paul Cezanne all adopted the Impressionism name and style for their art.

Because it was Monet’s painting Impression: Sunrise (8172) from which the name Impressionism came, Claude Monet is usually thought of as the father of the Impressionism art movement.

Vincent Van Gogh Liked And Admired The French Impressionist Artist

We know that Vincent Van Gogh liked and admired French Impressionist art. He was aware of the Impressionists and all they were doing with their artwork.

Vincent Van Gogh
Vincent Van Gogh

His sister Willemien must have asked Vincent about the Impressionists and what Vincent thought about them and their artwork and paintings. Vincent wrote her a letter in 1888 that spoke about Impressionism:

Well that’s very understandable because it’s always the same, people have heard of the Impressionists, they have great expectations of them… and when they see them for the first time they’re bitterly, bitterly disappointed and find them careless, ugly, badly painted, badly drawn, bad in colour, everything that’s miserable. That was my first impression, too, when I came to Paris with the ideas of Mauve and Israëls and other clever painters. And when there’s an exhibition in Paris of Impressionists alone, I believe a host of visitors come back from it bitterly disappointed and even indignant…”

Vincent Van Gogh – Letter to Sister Willemien van Gogh – 1888

We get valuable insights into how people saw the Impressionists and the movement. Most people did not understand their artwork and felt disappointed when they saw it.

We also gain valuable insight from this letter as we can see that Vincent was not talking about being one of the Impressionist artists; he knew their paintings and artwork.

In the same letter, Vincent Van Gogh explains to his sister how he sees the Impressionists and why he finds himself attracted to their art movements.

Vincent also wrote Willemein in the same letter of 1888 about how he felt about the Impressionists.

“And so those 20 or so painters whom people call Impressionists, although a few of them have become fairly rich and fairly big men in the world — all the same, the majority of them are poor souls who live in coffee houses, lodge in cheap inns, live from one day to the next.
But — in one day all those 20 whom I mentioned to you paint everything they set eyes on, and better than many a great man who has a big reputation in the art world.
I say this to get you to understand what sort of tie binds me to the French painters whom people call the Impressionists — that I know many of them personally and like them.”


We discover from this letter that Vincent Van Gogh knew many Impressionists and liked them; he felt a kinship and alignment with them but was not necessarily part of their movement.

Most Art Historians, when they categorize Vincent Van Gogh, categorize him as a Post-Impressionist and not an Impressionist. We can see from his writings that even Van Gogh did not see himself as a full-fledged Impressionist but liked and admired the Impressionism movement.

Claude Monet And Vincent Van Gogh Admired Each Other’s Artwork

Claude Monet (1840 to 1926) and Vincent Van Gogh (1853 to 1890) knew each other. In many of the letters Vincent writes to his brother, he talks about Claude Monet.

In a letter to his brother Theo, Van Gogh wrote this about Claude Monet.

“Ah, to paint figures like Claude Monet paints landscapes. That’s what remains to be done despite everything, and before, of necessity, one sees only Monet among the Impressionists.”

Vincent Van Gogh In Letter to Brother Theo (1889)

We learn from this letter that Vincent Van Gogh admired Claude Monet and his work, especially his landscapes. We also know how people saw Monet and that he was a significant figure in the Impressionism movement.

Claude Monet
Claude Monet

We also know that Claude Monet admired Vincent Van Gogh’s artwork. Theo, in a letter to Vincent, told him about a conversation he had with Monet about Vincent’s paintings and a recent exhibition:

“Your paintings at the exhibition are very successful. The other day Duez stopped me in the street and said, give my compliments to your brother and tell him that his paintings are quite remarkable. Monet said that your paintings were the best in the exhibition. Many other artists have spoken to me about them.” Letter From Theo Van gogh To vincent Van gogh (1890)

We learn from this that Claude Monet admired Vincent Van Gogh and his artwork, and Van Gogh admired Monet, but nowhere does Van Gogh say he was an Impressionist or part of the movement. Instead, he sees himself as an admirer of Impressionism art and Claude Monet.

Claude Monet does not refer to Van Gogh as an Impressionist, but we know he admired Van Gogh and his art.

Claude Monet is an Impressionist artist; in fact, he is considered the founder of Impressionism. Vincent Van Gogh is always referred to as a Post-Impressionist. Monet and Van Gogh had two different art styles and art movements.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Who is considered the founder of the Impressionist movement, Van Gogh or Monet?

Claude Monet is widely regarded as the founder of the Impressionist movement.

What is the significance of Monet’s painting “Impression: Sunrise” in relation to Impressionism?

Monet’s painting “Impression: Sunrise” (1872) is the artwork that gave the Impressionist movement its name.

Did Vincent Van Gogh play a role in the Impressionist movement’s inception?

No, Van Gogh is not considered a founder of the Impressionist movement. He is associated with the Post-Impressionist movement.

How did Monet and Van Gogh influence each other’s art?

Monet and Van Gogh admired each other’s work, but their artistic styles differed. Monet’s Impressionism influenced Van Gogh, who later became a prominent Post-Impressionist artist.

Were Monet and Van Gogh contemporaries?

Yes, Monet and Van Gogh were contemporaries, both active during the late 19th century.

What characteristics define Monet’s Impressionist style?

Monet’s Impressionist style is characterized by the use of light and color to capture the fleeting effects of nature, often employing loose brushstrokes.

How is Van Gogh’s art different from Monet’s Impressionism?

Van Gogh’s art, classified as Post-Impressionism, is known for its emotional intensity, bold colors, and thick, textured brushstrokes, in contrast to Monet’s more subtle and atmospheric approach.

Did Monet and Van Gogh collaborate on any artworks together?

There is no record of Monet and Van Gogh collaborating on any artworks. They were admirers of each other’s work but pursued distinct artistic paths.

Did Monet and Van Gogh ever meet in person?

There is no conclusive evidence that Monet and Van Gogh met in person, though they were both active in the same artistic circles.

How did the Impressionist movement evolve after Monet’s contributions?

After Monet’s initial contributions, the Impressionist movement continued to grow with the participation of other notable artists such as Renoir, Degas, and Pissarro, each contributing to its development.

Were Van Gogh’s Last Words, “The Sadness Will Last Forever”?

Theo arrived in Auvers before Vincent Van Gogh died and could be with him until the very end. Theo recorded the events of the death of their sister Elizabeth and, in the letter, said that Vincent Van Gogh’s last words were “The Sadness Will Last Forever” (“La tristesse durera Toujours”).

By clicking here, you can learn more by reading Were Van Gogh’s Last Words, “The Sadness Will Last Forever”?.

What Art Tools Did Vincent Van Gogh Use?

Vincent Van Gogh used most of the essential tools that artists of his day used, such as oil paints, turpentine, oil, canvas, brushes, palette knife, and easel. We learn from some of the letters he wrote how he used these art tools for his paintings. We also learn from the letters how important these art tools were to him.

By clicking here, you can discover more by reading What Art Tools Did Vincent Van Gogh Use?

Is Vincent Van Gogh An Abstract Artist?

Vincent Van Gogh was not considered an Abstract Artist but is considered a Post-Impressionism artist. He is known to have admired the Impressionist artist, but he never saw himself as part of the group of Impressionists. Instead, Van Gogh had a unique style and choice of colors for his paintings.

By clicking here, you can learn more by reading Is Vincent Van Gogh An Abstract Artist?

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