The term impressionism was first used in 1874 by Louis Leroy in the Parisian newspaper Le Charivari. He had seen the work "Impression du soleil levant" by the young Claude Monet at an exhibition and called Monet and his fellow exhibitors "les impressionistes". A term that was not at all laudatory. Accustomed to the polished representations of Romanticism and Classicism propagated in academic circles, art audiences and critics were shocked by the landscapes painted outdoors and unvarnished representations of everyday, sometimes raw life, in a style that many believed had the character from a cursory sketch.
In the Netherlands, Impressionism spread through the Hague and Amsterdam Schools, although impressionism pur sang, as it took shape in France - the ode to light and the glorification of bright colors - was not depicted in the same way by these artists. The Hague Scholers were more influenced by the Barbizon School, their landscapes usually lack the intensity of touch, sunlight and color; the palette is more subdued, and the brushstroke is often wider. It has been suggested that Dutch light, often muffled by clouds, influenced this. What is certain, however, is that the stylistic preference for the "gray tones" in the landscape has played a major role. The words of Gerard Bilders, already written in 1860, have become a manifesto of this: 'I am looking for a tone, which we call colored gray, that is all colors, however strong, brought together in such a way that they give the impression of a fragrant, warm gray '. For this group of painters, with the most important representatives Jozef Israëls, Hendrik Willem Mesdag, Johannes Bosboom, the landscape painters Willem Roelofs, Anton Mauve, Johan Hendrik Weissenbruch, Paul Joseph Constantin Gabriel and the brothers Jacob, Matthijs and Willem Maris, the landscape and the life of fishermen and farmers are the main subjects. Scheveningen was a painter's paradise, where the Haagse Scholers went to document the fishermen and their daily activities. Bath life became the topic around 1900. Jozef Israëls, J.E.H. Akkeringa and Floris Arntzenius, the city portraitist of The Hague, drew inspiration from Scheveningen for their dune and beach scenes: cheerful Dutch scenes, the women in their chairs working or talking peacefully, the children playing in the sand. Willem de Zwart was also inspired by The Hague or the nearby beach. He is also called the 'Haagse Breitner' because he painted typical Hague subjects, but was related in style and use of color to the Amsterdam Impressionists. The figure painters David Artz and Bernard Blommers were included, as well as Louis Apol, who focused almost exclusively on winter landscapes.
Unlike the landscape-oriented painters of the Hague School, the Amsterdam Impressionists were mainly attracted by the dynamics of the big city. In the eighties of the 19th century, artists such as George Breitner, Willem Witsen, Isaac Israels and Eduard Karsen painted scenes of daily life on the street, with a mostly warm and dark palette of browns, reds and blacks. Partly because of a social commitment, they did not shun the confrontational imagination: the seamy side of city life and the hard life of the worker were painted just as well as the nightlife. There was a relationship with the French Impressionists, who were controversial because they depicted the raw reality of everyday life.