The impressionist style was evolved by painters who were increasingly interested in studying the effects of light on objects—how light colors shadows and dissolves objects—and in transferring their observations directly to the canvas. Their disregard for exact details of form and their use of small, separate touches of pure color—techniques in complete contrast to the prevailing academic style—aroused the animosity of both the critics and the public. Nearly 20 years elapsed before Claude Monet, impressionism's leading exponent, achieved recognition. Monet's chief interest was landscape, which he rendered in all kinds of weather and in various seasons; he captured the sparkling effects of sunlight on trees in springtime and the drab light of winter on snow-tracked ground. In his late years, Monet devoted himself to painting the exquisite gardens and water lily ponds he had created at his home in Giverny ; their forms became increasingly evanescent as he translated them into the shimmering play of light and color.
Camille Pissarro was also one of the creators of impressionism, as was Pierre Auguste Renoir. Pissarro's favorite motifs were landscapes, river scenes, views of Paris streets, and figures of peasants at work. Renoir's interests were similar to those of both Monet and Pissarro, but he also did a great number of portraits and figure paintings; his many studies of female nudes, with their pearlescent skin tones, are particularly famous.
Frequently, the impressionists worked outdoors side by side, as was often the case with Renoir and Monet. In 1869, for example, they both did renditions of La grenouillère (The Frog Pond); Monet's hangs in the Metropolitan Museum, Renoir's in the National Museum, Stockholm. In the early 1870s a similar relationship existed between Pissarro and Paul Cézanne; Pissarro did not dissolve forms as radically as did the other impressionists, and this may have persuaded Cézanne to work with him, for Cézanne's interests were to lead him in other directions. While the impressionists were occupied with rendering the transitory, such as the changing effects of light, Cézanne was concerned with the eternal aspects of nature and thus sought its structural principles, as in his numerous late canvases of Mont Sainte-Victoire. Painted during the last years of his life, these studies are the result of Cézanne's attempt to render the color and volume of a mountain form seen from a distance. Cézanne's concern for geometric form was a major influence on the development of cubism.