Celebrations of city streets, tranquil vistas of the countryside and seashore, enchanting images of the leisured classes in domestic interiors or at fashionable Parisian cafes - the work of the Impressionists gives pleasure to art lovers everywhere. But while Impressionism today may appear natural and effortless, contemporaries were shocked by the loose handling of paint and the practice of painting out-of-doors. In defiance of the conservative official Salon, the Impressionists, led by Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Edgar Degas, sought to capture the immediacy of experience. This fascinating, comprehensive study brings together the most recent research on Impressionism. James Rubin makes accessible its philosophical, political and social context. As well as the acknowledged masters, our attention is drawn to lesser known but important Impressionists such as Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt and Gustave Caillebotte.