During the 19th century, a group of artists in France broke away from the traditional "realistic" style of painting, to a style that would later be named 'Impressionism.' The name comes from Monet's painting, "Impressionism: Sunrise," adopted by the artists after critics scornfully classified the paintings to be impressions. The times were changing and with that change came many new materials, techniques and fresh ideas; the artists also felt the need for a drastic change in art so they defied their teachings and rejected realistic painting. The leading artists in this movement were Monet, Renoir, Pissarro and Manet. Although the first Impressionist exhibition, "Salon Des Refuses" (rejects from the Salon), was held in 1874, the origins of impressionism were a lot earlier. Artists were continuously having their work rejected by the Salon because it did not fit in with the requirements of the Academic Doctrine (set rules on how to paint and which subjects were acceptable).

The Impressionist movement was dominated by the desire to portray the world through light and colour alone; structure was not seen to be of any importance. They felt that depicting the light and colour of subject matter would reveal the atmosphere and the true essence of the world and bring life to their paintings. Light was particularly important and artists such as Monet refused to commence painting unless the lighting was perfect for their desired results. "Light was the creative principle underlying appearance; light was colour, movement, time and life itself." Along with light, colour was a significant part of Impressionist paintings; complementary colours were used side by side to create a vivid effect, this is something that was, until now, unheard-of in the art world. Many artists now practiced 'plein air' drawing (or outdoor drawing) which allowed them to complete paintings within the space of a few hours. Artists abandoned all 'rules' on painting, and now painted to please themselves.
19th century art was a transitional period from traditional methods to the unconventional works that followed. The art and the artists were greatly assisted by inventions and modifications. An important implement being the colour wheel, this offered artists an enhanced view of the colour spectrum, allowing them to use a greater range of colour. When photography was developed, the compulsion to use art as a means of historical documentation diminished, leaving artists free to explore a range of subjects. Paint was now being produced in tubes, this meant artists no longer had to mix their own paint and tubes, the container replacing jars, allowed greater mobility. This mobility was used to the artist's advantage, permitting them to paint more outdoor scenery and the effect light had on colour and life.

As the Academic Doctrine and the need to depict subjects realistically, were discarded, artists were able to explore a variety of techniques, a popular one being quick, generous brush strokes. Painting outdoors meant that artists were able to capture the real essence of the subject matter without having to paint from memory or previous sketches. This also lead to the creation of a series of paintings on the same day, only in different light; the amount and position of light had an immense effect on the way the artist saw and replicated the scene. Complementing and separating colours helped to define the subject and emphasised the colours that were used. Small, thick brush strokes were used, layer upon layer, to add texture to the painting.

Monet, the leading Impressionist, when painting water, would not try to define the waves, but would use a series of individual strokes of colour to convey the image. He would also use both small and large slabs of colour to emphasise the appearance; eg. White would be used for the peak of the wave, however a darker colour would be placed beside the white to make it stand out. Monet would apply paint very liberally to create a mass of colour and texture, sometimes recognisable only form a distance. Monet required the right lighting and would often race against time to finish his work before the sun set.

The turning point in art was Impressionism, which bridged the gap between traditional and abstract art. This was the first time in history that artists dared to express themselves with such a frenzy of colour and