Impressions, Sunrise shows the port of Le Havre in the morning. In the background, some of the ships anchor; their silhouette disappears in the mist, though. In the foreground three small boats appear dimly. The water reflects the light of the rising sun.
Monet composed the majority of the painting in blue and violet, but the reflection of the sun on the water is painted in orange. The ships in the background serve as a structuring element and create linear structures. The diagonally arranged boats create the impression of the spatial distance, while Monet renounced at composition and further spatial effects. The aim of Impression, Sunrise is just the accurate reproduction of the very impression and its resulting mood. The atmospheric effect dominates and marginalizes the importance of the object's shape. In order to capture the constant change of light and the flicker of the air clearly, Monet painted with small, short strokes.
From the 15th April to 15th May 1874 Monet exhibited his work together with Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, Édouard Manet, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, and some other thirty artists. They organized their exhibition on their own as they were usually rejected at the Paris Salon. Most visitors were disgusted and even outraged over such a graffiti. Monet's Impression, Sunrise enjoyed the most attention and some visitors even claimed that they were absolutely unable to recognize what was shown at all.
The criticism that the paintings were nothing but some sketches meant that the visitors stayed away and the costs could not be met. Nevertheless, the term Impressionists became quickly popular and the participating artists started to call themselves "Exposition des Impressionistes".
Over 100 years later, the evaluation of Monet's work changed quite a lot and on 27 October 1985, armed robbers made their way into the opened Musee Marmottan Monet and tore Impression, Sunrise as well as eight other paintings by Monet from the walls. They were recovered only five years later.