Aggro Impressionsts: From Impasto to Palette Knives

Jean-Paul Riopelle, Untitled, 1948

Jean-Paul Riopelle, Untitled, 1948

So by now, it's no secret that my love of palette knife painting goes well beyond my own work. There's something about the way they apply paint to the canvas that just speaks to me more clearly than a brush does, no matter whose work is doing the talking. Following up on my recent post about impasto (say it with me again in your best bad Italian accent!) I want to share a bit more about how palette knife painting grew popular, and how it merged so perfectly with what the Impressionists were doing with impasto.

You'll probably remember from the earlier post that impasto has a long history, but it really started to become popular thanks to the Impressionists around the turn of the 20th century. They were laying the groundwork for modern art and all the weirdly excellent pieces that would grow up out of it. Even then, palette knife painting wasn't really new, since painters as far back as Rembrandt were already experimenting with the unique ways it let them apply paint to their canvases.

Jean-Paul Riopelle, Composition, 1955

Jean-Paul Riopelle, Composition, 1955

So when the post-Impressionists came along, all hell broke loose in the most expressively beautiful ways as you can see above! Usually, they're now referred to as expressionists, and they went all out in exploring new abstract styles. Partly this was because of their rebellious natures, and partly it was because new formulas for paint were being developed that gave rise to new possibilities that just weren't open to earlier artists. The colors were brighter, the paints were thicker, and they could be used immediately without a bunch of tedious messing around mixing.

The stage was set for the impasto knife painter ascendancy! A bunch of painters looking for new ways to break the rules all had palette knives they had been using for mixing, when they suddenly had access to paints that didn't need mixing - so what to do? Experiment, of course!

Painters like Jean-Paul Riopelle opened the eyes of a lot of young painters to the virtues of the palette knife, and the technique has been growing in popularity ever since. I'm going to be making a few posts in the near future about some of my favorite knife artists, so stay tuned to find your own inspiration!

A lot of my work is inspired by the Impressionist style with my own extra kick of impasto, but I always have a soft spot in my heart for the wild experimentation of the artists that followed in the Impressionists' footsteps. To see more of my palette knife paintings, check out my full portfolio here: theknifepainter.com or follow me on Instagram @trishaknifepainter for regular updates!