Style is used in two senses: It can refer to the distinctive visual elements, techniques and methods that typify an individual artist's work. It can also refer to the movement or school that an artist is associated with. This can stem from an actual group that the artist was consciously involved with or it can be a category in which art historians have placed the painter. The word 'style' in the latter sense has fallen out of favor in academic discussions about contemporary painting, though it continues to be used in popular contexts. Such movements or classifications include the following:


The first example of modernism in painting was impressionism, a school of painting that initially focused on work done, not in studios, but outdoors (en plein air). Impressionist paintings demonstrated that human beings do not see objects, but instead see light itself. The school gathered adherents despite internal divisions among its leading practitioners, and became increasingly influential. Initially rejected from the most important commercial show of the time, the government-sponsored Paris Salon, the Impressionists organized yearly group exhibitions in commercial venues during the 1870s and 1880s, timing them to coincide with the official Salon. A significant event of 1863 was the Salon des Refusés, created by Emperor Napoleon III to display all of the paintings rejected by the Paris Salon.
Allegory is a figurative mode of representation conveying meaning other than the literal. Allegory communicates its message by means of symbolic figures, actions or symbolic representation. Allegory is generally treated as a figure of rhetoric, but an allegory does not have to be expressed in language: it may be addressed to the eye, and is often found in realistic painting. An example of a simple visual allegory is the image of the grim reaper. Viewers understand that the image of the grim reaper is a symbolic representation of death.
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