The painting movement that originated in the 1880s when American artists started painting landscapes with an overall tone of atmospheric mist or hues is known tonalism. The primary colors or tones used by the artists between 1880 and 1915 were blue, grey, and hues of black. These colors were the base colors which dominated the paintings and the whole painting was centered on the same. The first time the term ‘tonal’ was coined and used was in the 1890s to describe these paintings. The two primary artists who were associated with tonalism were George Inness and James McNeill Whistler.
The form of painting that is tonalism is often believed to have been derived from the French Barbizon style of painting. Eventually, this form of painting was overshadowed by Impressionism and European Modernism. A defining characteristic of the painters in this movement was that they did not like to be referred as a part of any art movement. But when pressed to define their style, the artists referred to it as Luminism. This was their approach towards painting. Though the subject in the paintings was the same, that is landscapes, the overall style of the artists in Tonalism was different from that of Luminism.
Some of the greatest artists of this form of painting were Joseph Allworthy, Bruce Crane, William Keith, Max Meldrum, and Edward Steichen.