This video from the Saint Louis Art Museum explains the origins and themes of Impressionist Art. Before Impressionism, in the early 19th century, artists were encouraged to create epic art on great themes. But the Impressionists began to paint scenes of everyday life as it took place around them, and were the first to paint “en plein air”, while directly observing nature. These artists strove to capture their first “impression” of what they observed, despite the art teaching and criticism of their time. They were independent artists, experimenting with new paints, new techniques, and new ways of thinking about art.