French Impressionism is the original school of painting that worked to capture the artist's "impression" of the light and shadow of the scene, and not the realistic image. It evolved from a desire to reject the heavily Academic style of art at work in mid-nineteenth century France.
Its first practitioners worked "en plein air", which meant outdoors with the intention of finishing the work at the scene. They used special methods to render their immediate surroundings, the conditions of light and shadow and to convey what they were seeing. They did not do this in the Realistic manner that was popularly accepted, but by a combination of brilliant color and rapid, short brush strokes.
The style earned its name from one of the first canvases reviewed, the "Impression, Sunrise" by Claude Monet. Though the group of painters that had come together for the first Impressionist exhibition did not particularly favor the name, it stuck, and from 1876 to 1886 they had seven more exhibitions. The artists who submitted to these shows included Monet, Berthe Morisot, Pierre Renoir, Edgar Degas, Pissarro and Alfred Sisley; later Eduard Manet and Gustave Caillebotte would join them as well.
The popularity of this style is still seen in the modern era, with many contemporary painters employing the style in their work. The true French Impressionism faded towards the end of the nineteenth century as changing modes in art and experimentation allowed it to be transformed into several other styles, including Pointillism and Fauvism, which are placed under the heading of "Post-Impressionism". It also was taken up by American artists where it further evolved under "American Impressionism" and even "California Impressionism".