Notable art used to only consist of smooth realistic paintings of history or religious themes or portraits. There was little in the way of individual creativity. In the early 1800s there was Salon de Paris, where artists won awards of recognition for great art. As is with everything it seems in life the old reliable artists who painted according to the accepted styles always had more favor. This did not bode well for the younger artists.
They were painting in lighter ways and the subjects more realistic (or not) common day things. After so many works were being rejected by elite judges from the Salon de Paris Emperor Napaleon III created the Salon des Refuses (Salon of the Refused) where the public could judge. Before this though a group of young talented artists had been painting together. This group consisted of Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, and Frederic Bazille. Together these artists were creating a new painting style, most of which was why their work wasn't accepted at the Salon. Later on Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, and Sisley started the Coiete Anonyme Cooperative des Artistes,Peinteres, Sculpteurs, Graveurs (Cooperative and Anonymous Association of Painters, Sculptors, and Engravers). They and other artists (Edouard Manet, Camille Pissarro, Paul Cezanne, Armand Guillaumin, and more) were starting a new movement.
This style was much more contemporary and the first of modern art. Focusing on movement, the use of light, common things such as people, landscapes, and still life, and the use of small yet visible brush strokes to create a realistic painting that was unique to each artist. This was impressionism.
This is just the beginning of impressionism that has so much more to it's story.
For now, though, here is my favorite impressionism painting.
Woman with a Parasol by Monet