Origins of Techno-Impressionism


"I make a great second impression."
> Vincent van Gui, who was not the first Impressionist

The Techno-Impressionist art movement, which began in the last decade of the Twentieth Century, appeared to contradict the popular art movements of the time.

For some, it was similar to the break from tradition that marked the first Impressionist movement of the 19th Century. (Some have referred to the Techno-Impressionist artists as "Second Impressionists." Others have referred to them as "Twentieth Century Impressionists.")

The Techno-Impressionist artists were known for their interchangeable use of traditional media, and of computer-based tools that behaved like real media. In each case, the medium would be chosen for its particular characteristics in rendering the image the artist had visualized.

In some cases, traditional and computer-based media would be used in the same work.

The artists who switched back and forth between different media were able to transfer the lessons and experiences of one medium to another.

Although the Techno-Impressionist artists used computers in producing their work, they did not fall prey to the lure of the technical and become "computer artists" or "digital artists."

These artists also used technology to explore new ways to exhibit their art.

The Techno-Impressionist artists pursued the traditional themes of the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist periods.

They also pursued themes that represented a natural evolution from these periods.

They also pursued themes that led to Impressionism.

Why a new art movement?

"The art world hasn't had a decent movement in almost 100 years.
Think of Techno-Impressionism as a laxative."
> Pablo PigCasso

We need new labels to help understand new ideas. Then, as the idea develops, we have a place to add these evolving thoughts. Thus we have 're-engineering,' 'downsizing' and other terms that are linked with new concepts.

Up to Impressionism, the name of an art movement told you something about the art itself. After that, the names of the movements became less descriptive and, in some cases, indicated a period rather than a style.

The Techno-Impressionists wanted to create art that people would want to possess.

The real purpose of Techno-Impressionism was to encourage artists to produce the sort of work that had been produced 100 years earlier. If this sort of art was encouraged and rewarded, more artists would take the risk of doing this sort of work.

The Techno-Impressionists were trying to re-start some artistic threads that died off one hundred years earlier.

For example, they considered it a bad sign that the art of drawing was not held in the same esteem it had been in the 19th Century. A great tradition and an art form had both been lost.

The Techno-Impressionists saw a great significance in the death of this type of art at the end of the last century.

And they saw an opportunity for a new beginning in art, at the start of a new century, and at the start of a new millennium as well.

They were saying: Let's rewind to 1890 and try again.

Art and the transparent use of technology

"The Impressionists knew about photography, they used photography,
but they did not become photographers."
> Henri de Toulouse LaTech

The worlds of art and technology have always been closely linked and every art, to some extent, depends on technology. And in every era, there is new technology for artists to explore.

The artists of the first Impressionist movements used technology transparently. That is, they used technology to further their artistic vision, but did not let the technology become an intrusive element in their work.

And, although they used the technology, they did not become technologists.

The most important new technology was photography, uniting chemistry and optics.

In the latter part of the 19th Century, photography had advanced enough to enable artists to use it to replace their sketchbooks and record poses and scenes so that they could be studied at leisure while recreating them on canvas in the studio.

Did this make art better?

Probably not, but it certainly made some parts of it a lot easier.

There were other optical devices like the Camera Obscura, now with real lenses, that made it an accurate and easy-to-use aid to sketching.

The same sort of optical devices could project a sketch onto canvas so that images could be transferred easily from one medium to another. This is a recurring theme in the artist's use of technology.

Some artists invented new technology. Van Gogh designed a perspective viewing device that he credited with aiding both creativity and productivity.

Others came up with new color theories.

Seurat's work foreshadows the computer-based digital output devices used by today's artists.

Some advances that would seem trivial today had a great effect in the 19th Century. For instance, the invention of malleable tubes to hold oil paint allowed artists to work out of doors, which lead to some of themes of the Impressionist movements.

Did any of this make art better? Probably not, but it certainly made it easier. And it had another effect. By making it easier, it made it more accessible.

How the Techno-Impressionists used technology

"In confronting technology, you must decide whether it will be you or the technology that is in charge."
> Henri de Toulouse-LaTech

Like the first Impressionists, the Techno-Impressionists used technology to support and further their art in a way that was transparent to the viewer.

The Techno-Impressionists were the first artists to harness the power of the computer without becoming 'computer artists.'

They used computers in a number of ways.

First, they used computers to help create pictures. One of the things that gave birth to the Techno-Impressionist movement was when computer systems capable of producing real art in the classical styles became available to the general public.

The Techno-Impressionists also saw the computer as a new tool for use in learning how to draw. The computer was less intimidating than working with real media. It was easier to fix mistakes and experiment with many different media.

These, and other unique characteristics of computer-simulated media lured in many who would not otherwise have thought of creating art.

As with the Impressionists, the technology also became a tool for moving images between different types of media. The Techno-Impressionists used the computer to transfer images between the world of real media, and the computer-simulated world of real media.

This transfer was mandated by choice in how a particular image was to be displayed -- on a computer-based gallery, or in a real gallery.

The Techno-Impressionists used the computer to communicate with other artists in virtual cafes. In some cases, these would expand into a virtual salon.

The Techno-Impressionists also saw that they could use computers to exhibit their art to the whole world instead of just the handful of people who were able to visit a real gallery.

So they used the computer to create galleries. The artist's computer held the gallery. The visitor used a computer to view the gallery.

For the first time in history, art became world-wide and instantaneous.

Note: This is a fable. Some of the events described above have not yet happened.

Last modified June 9, 1995

Techno-Impressionist Museum : .