Impressionism & Science


Franz A. Bischoff (American, born Austria, 1864–1929)

Oil on canvas, 24 x 40 in. Crocker Art Museum, Melza and Ted Barr Collection, 2009.19.


often used contrasting colors in their paintings. Complementary colors sit on opposite ends of the color wheel; as blue & orange, red & green and violet & yellow. When placed next to each other in a composition they make each color appear more vibrant. We can see this in many of Monet’s works, where his use of contrasting color draws the eye into his work of art. Their interest was motivated by the emerging science of color theory and their interest in new sciences & technologies such as the camera.


Impressionism: a 19th-century art movement characterized by relatively small, thin, yet visible brush strokes, and an emphasis on accurate depiction of light in its changing qualities. 


About the artist:

Well known in the American East for his exquisite porcelains profusely decorated with roses, Austrian-born Franz Bischoff built a home and studio in the Arroyo Seco area of Pasadena in 1908. There, he planted flowers, which provided models for his china painting and also the new oils that increasingly occupied his attention. This focus was perfectly in keeping with his new environment, and his paintings served to communicate the essence of the Los Angeles region, and Pasadena in particular.


There are many interesting components of the Impressionist movement, especially when it comes to color. Inspired by the emerging science of color theory, in many respects the impressionists were working in scientific exploration, in an attempt to understand and capture the world around them.

One of their interests was in plein air painting, and how light & color was perceived outside. Many of their techniques include using a light background, using primary colors, colors close to the light spectrum, and creating compositions using contrasting or complementary colors.


Learning Intention:  

Students will evaluate pieces of work by Impressionist artists in an effort to explore how complementary color works.


As a group examine Impressionist paintings Using Project Zero’s framework See, Think, Make, Discuss routine to critically analyze and think through how Impressionists were using complementary colors through a makers approach.



Creating (VA:Cr1.1; VA:Cr1.2; VA:Cr2.1; VA:Cr2.2; VA:Cr2.3; VA:Cr3); Presenting (VA:Pr4; VA:Pr5; VA:Pr6); Responding (VA:Re7.1; VA:Re7.2; VA:Re8; VA:Re9); Connecting (VA:Cn10; VA:Cn11)

ELA: College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading (R.CCR.1; R.CCR.2; R.CCR.4; R.CCR.5; R.CCR.6; R.CCR.7; R.CCR.8; R.CCR.9); College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing (W.CCR.9); College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening (SL.CCR.1; SL.CCR.2; SL.CCR.3; SL.CCR.4); College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Language (L.CCR.1; L.CCR.3; L.CCR.4; L.CCR.6)  

Next Generation Science: 1-ESS1-2; 1-PS4-2; 1-PS4-3; K–2-ETS1-1; K–2-ETS1-2; 2-PS1-1; 2-PS1-2; 2-PS1-3; 3-PS2-1; 3–5-ETS1-1; 3–5-ETS1-2; 5-PS1-3; 5-PS1-4; 5-PS2-1


  • See
  • Think
  • Wonder


30 minutes

Grade Level



  • Science
  • Visual Art


  • Fast
  • Simple Materials


  • Paint


Bree Garcia

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