Post-Impressionism (1886-1905)

Post-Impressionism developed in France after Impressionism, between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. It was not properly an artistic movement because the term indicated numerous pictorial experiences born in that period.

TThe Basket of Apples (ca. 1893) by Paul Cézanne

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/581389e3-24c9-4777-9a60-6f97f6927193 by The Art Institute of Chicago

What was Post-Impressionism?

Post-Impressionism developed predominantly in France between 1886 (the last Impressionist exhibition) and 1905 (the beginning of Fauvism). Unlike their predecessors and successors, Post-Impressionist artists were not unified by a single aesthetic approach. A multitude of artistic styles developed within the movement like Neo-Impressionism and Symbolism.
Even if they did not use the same painting technique, they shared an interest in openly exploring the mind of the artist.
The most important artists were Paul Cézanne, Paul GauguinVincent Van Gogh, and Georges Seurat.
Post-Impressionism’s most popular themes were contemporary landscapes and scenes of modern life, especially of bourgeois leisure and recreation.
Post-Impressionists refused Impressionists’ interest in the spontaneous and naturalistic rendering of light and color. Instead, they emphasized more symbolic content, formal order, and structure. Like Impressionists, they gave more attention to the artificiality of the picture. Post-Impressionists considered color as an emotional and aesthetic bearer of meaning. In fact, it could be independent of form and composition.
Like Impressionists, Post-Impressionists shared their work with the public through independent exhibitions across Paris because they refused the system of state-controlled academies and salons.  
The term Post-Impressionism was coined by the critic and artist Roger Fry (1866-1934) during his exhibition Manet and Post-Impressionists installed at the Grafton Galleries in London in 1910.


The gardener, Georges Seurat, 1882-1883

Image source: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/437656

Style Characteristics

Post-Impressionists used vivid colors, thick application of paint, and painted real-life subjects, like Impressionists. They distanced themselves from their predecessors by emphasizing geometric forms, distorting form as an expressive effect, and using unnatural or arbitrary colors. Post-Impressionists believed that a work of art should focus on symbolism, and the perception of the artist’s subconscious not around style, process, or aesthetics. Artists felt like the subject had to convey feelings, rather than meanings or to be used as a mere visual tool. Unlike Impressionists who seek to capture the natural light effect on tonality, Post-Impressionists purposely implemented an artificial color palette to portray their emotion-driven perceptions of the world around them. They experimented with various techniques of painting, but everyone depicted defining form through short brushstrokes of color.


A Wheatfield, with Cypresses, Vincent Van Gogh, 1889

Image source: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/436535

Main Artists

Most of the Post-Impressionist painters began as Impressionists, but each of them abandoned the movement and created their personal style.
Paul Cézanne (1839–1906), known as the father of Post-Impressionism, maintained the fundamental doctrine of painting from nature but added more rigor.
Georges Seurat (1859–1891) used a scientific basis on impressionist painting of light and color. He is the founder of Neo-Impressionism and the divisionism method.
Paul Gauguin (1848–1903) retained intense light and color but rejected painting from nature and reintroduced imaginative subject matter.  
Vincent Van Gogh (1853–1890) painted from nature but developed highly personal use of color and brushwork directly expressing an emotional response to the subject and his inner world.
All these painters were French except Van Gogh was Dutch.


Three Tahitian Women 1896 , Paul Gauguin

Image source: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/438000

Following art movements

Post-Impressionists influenced a lot of art movements that developed afterward, like the Fauves, the Nabis, especially Pierre Bonnard and Édouard Vuillard, the German Expressionists, Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque.

Mont Sainte-Victoire and the Viaduct of the Arc River Valley 1882–85 , Paul Cézanne

Image source: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/435877

Info sources:
https://mymodernmet.com/post-impressionism/
https://www.britannica.com/art/Post-Impressionism
https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/p/post-impressionism
https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/poim/hd_poim.htm

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