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Because of the enormous popularity of Impressionism today, it is hard to believe that when the Impressionists first exhibited their works they were ridiculed, say editors at Merriam-Webster Inc. The objective of the Impressionists was to represent in paint the visual reality of the constantly changing effects of natural light on the appearance of color. The resulting works departed dramatically from the predominating contemporary academic style of the day. The Impressionists' works seemed to have no recognizable subject and no formal composition. Paint was applied in thick unblended strokes. The paintings were so different from the paintings people were accustomed to that no one knew how to appreciate them or what to admire in them.

Among the early Impressionists were Claude Monet, Pierre August Renoir, Alfred Sisley and Camille Pissarro. In 1874 they held their first public exhibition. This show included a work by Monet called "Impression: Sunrise." From this title, critic Louis Leroy coined the name "Impressionists" for the group in an article strongly deriding the paintings. Despite Leroy's negative opinions, the group accepted the name as accurately describing what they were trying to do--to capture a fleeting impression.