Tonalism is identified as a moody and atmospheric method of landscape painting. It was first developed in the art schools of Munich and Paris during the 1880s, where it then spread into the American repertoire as well.
It is generally a style that utilizes dark or neutral colors to predominate a canvas, giving the scene a subdued atmosphere. Additionally it can be used to create soft light or shadows and served as a forerunner to Luminism.
The earliest proponents of the technique, including George Inness and James MacNeil Whistler, used the approach in order to gain balance and harmony in their compositions. Later painters however, such as the Barbizon School painters, used the effects of light and shadow to capture the immediacy of the landscapes they were painting.
Though not a rejection of the Hudson River School of painting's principles, many American landscape painters began to employ Tonalism's soft edges and even tonalities as a way of communicating emotion in a far less dramatic and symbolic method than the Hudson River School demanded.
Special glazing techniques were required of the Tonalist painter, but they served to create the misty or smoky effects the painters sought.
Other painters in the Tonalist style include William Morris Hunt, John La Farge, Ralph Albert Blakelock, John Henry Twachtman and Lowell Birge Harrison, among many more.