Understanding Post-Impressionism

Monet - Impression, Sunrise

Post-Impressionism represents a bunch of artists who changed how art looked, challenging what people knew from Impressionism and leading to newer art movements in the 20th century. Let’s dive into what Post-Impressionism means, where it came from, and what makes it unique.

What is Post-Impressionism?

Between 1886 and 1905 in France, Post-Impressionism formed. It wasn’t just one style but a mix of different ways artists expressed themselves after the last Impressionist show and before Fauvism started. The term “Post-Impressionism” was first used by Roger Fry, an English art critic, in 1906 for an exhibition in London called “Manet and the Post-Impressionists.” This exhibit featured artists like Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, and Georges Seurat, among others.

Breaking Away from Impressionism

Impressionism, a revolutionary movement in France during the 1860s and 1870s, shook up traditional painting styles and the power of the Salon. These artists aimed to capture quick moments of nature and modern life, using light colors, loose brushwork, and different lighting effects. However, some artists thought Impressionism was too surface-level, too focused on what you see, and not enough about what art could make you feel or think.

Key Post-Impressionist Artists

Vincent van Gogh, born in the Netherlands in 1853, stands out as one of the most influential Post-Impressionists. His style was all about vibrant colors, strong brushstrokes, and emotions in his paintings. He explored rural scenes, cityscapes, and his own mind, inspiring future artists to express their feelings rather than just what they saw.

Paul Gauguin, another Post-Impressionist, had a unique style marked by bold colors and symbolic stories. He sought a different world away from modern life, finding inspiration in places like Tahiti and Brittany, and influencing many other artists.

Paul Cézanne, born in Aix-en-Provence in 1839, wanted to bring order and structure back to painting. He focused on basic shapes, like cubes and spheres, to create depth and used balanced colors to bring his landscapes and portraits to life.

Georges Seurat, born in Paris in 1859, had a scientific approach to art. He invented pointillism, using tiny dots of pure color to create a bigger picture, and founded Neo-Impressionism, aiming for a more organized and balanced painting style.

Key Features of Post-Impressionist Art

Edvard Munch The Scream
Edvard Munch The Scream

Post-Impressionist art shows a lot of different ideas and experiments because each artist had their own way of doing things. Even with all the differences, some things make Post-Impressionism special, setting it apart from Impressionism and other styles.

Emotions and Symbols

Egon Schiele - Self-Portrait with Physalis (via Wikimedia Commons)
Egon Schiele – Self-Portrait with Physalis

Post-Impressionist art is all about feelings and symbols, not just showing things exactly as they are. Artists used colors, shapes, and how things are put together to show how they felt or what they thought. They liked using stories or symbols to talk about religion, feelings, and social stuff like who’s in charge or what it means to be a man or a woman.

New Ways of Doing Things

These artists didn’t stick to the old rules about how paintings should look. They tried different ways of putting things together, like using strange shapes or making things look different from different angles. They also played with how they painted, using tiny dots or strong lines to make their art unique. Plus, they didn’t just stick to paint on canvas; some tried out things like cutting into wood or shaping clay to create art.

Finding Inspiration

Post-Impressionists got their ideas from all over the place—stuff like Buddhist or Hindu ideas, ancient myths, or deep thoughts about life. They wanted to mix what you could see with what was hidden, making art that was both real and like a dream. They even used symbols from other cultures, like Japanese art or ancient Egyptian stuff, to make something new.

Lots of Different Styles

Post-Impressionism isn’t just one style. There are lots! Some artists, like Gauguin, used bold colors and made things look simple, almost like stained glass. Others, like those into Symbolism, used mysterious symbols and soft colors to create dreamy pictures. They all wanted to express their feelings and thoughts in their way.

Big Impact on Art

This kind of art changed everything. It made artists think in new ways, giving birth to movements like Expressionism, Fauvism, Cubism, and Abstract Art. These later artists got their cool ideas from what the Post-Impressionists did, trying new colors, shapes, and ideas in their art.

That’s a simple breakdown of what makes Post-Impressionist art special and how it made a big impact on art later on.

Techniques of Post-Impressionist Artists

Post-Impressionist artists were curious and daring, trying out new ways to make art. They had three main ways of doing things:

New Painting Methods

They liked to try different ways of painting. For instance, they experimented with things like using tiny dots or strong lines to create cool effects. Some even used materials like wood or clay instead of just paint. Plus, they played with different tools—brushes, knives, and even their fingers—to make unique strokes and marks.

Playing with Color and Shape

These artists were all about using bright colors and weird shapes. They’d sometimes use colors right from the tube to make their paintings pop. They played with shapes too, making things look different from different angles or using simple shapes like cubes or spheres. This made their art look more interesting and deep.

Expressing Personal Feelings

Instead of just painting what they saw, Post-Impressionists wanted to show what they felt inside. They used colors, shapes, and how things were put together to share their own thoughts, feelings, and ideas. They talked about stuff like religion, feelings, and social problems like who’s in charge or how men and women are treated.

Evolution of Seurat’s Artistic Process

Seurat, a famous Post-Impressionist artist, changed his way of painting over time:

Sketches Influenced by Impressionism

At first, Seurat sketched outdoors, just like the Impressionists did. He used quick strokes and bright colors to capture nature and city life’s fast changes.

Precise Work in the Studio

Later, he worked carefully in his studio, making small dots of pure color on his canvas. He used lines and curves to make his paintings look balanced and alive. He even created his way of painting called Neo-Impressionism.

Mixing Impressionist Style with Precision

In the end, Seurat mixed what he learned from the Impressionists with his precise way of painting. He still liked painting nature and city scenes but added new ideas about shapes, colors, and how society was divided.

Legacy of Post-Impressionism

Post-Impressionism left a big mark on art history:

Inspiring New Art Movements

Artists who came after the Post-Impressionists, like Expressionists, Fauvists, Cubists, and Abstract artists, were influenced by their bold ideas. Post-Impressionists changed the rules and made art more exciting for later artists.

Lasting Impact on How We See Art

Post-Impressionists made art about what they felt, not just what they saw. They also showed that art could be a way to talk about important stuff like society and personal thoughts. This changed how people thought about art and what it could do.

Still Important Today

Even now, Post-Impressionist art is still popular and makes people think. Artists today still use their ideas and techniques. It’s not just in paintings—these ideas also show up in things like movies, music, and design.

Why It Matters

Post-Impressionism mattered because it changed how people made art. It was all about trying new things, expressing feelings, and making art more than just pretty pictures. This movement was a big deal because it made art more personal and opened doors for modern art in the 20th century.

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