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Post-Impressionism (fr. postimpressionisme, lat. post — “after” and “impressionism”) is an art movement of the early 20th century, which was characterized by a rejection of the aesthetics of impressionism and realism in favour of new trends and techniques based on the contrast of colours and drawing techniques. Denying the transience of the impressionist subjects, the new movement concentrated on the long-lasting states of life, combining the material and spiritual, resorting to stylization and decoration, rejecting the direct realistic imitation of nature.
Post-impressionism developed actively between 1886 and 1905. The term was first used by art critic Roger Fry in 1906. A few years later, Fry again used the term when he organized the “Manet and Post-Impressionists” exhibition in the London galleries of Grafton in 1910; thus the name of the exhibition has defined the trend in the development of French art since Manet. The exposition then provoked poisonous criticism, calling it “outrageous, anarchist and childish”.
Post-impressionists worked in personal, deeply individual styles, many of which eventually became separate directions in painting. Many artists were rivals in their methods and approaches to art. Thus, Paul Gauguin and Georges Seurat were mutually hostile and spoke sharply about each other’s methods and styles. Gauguin expressed his own post-impressionism in the symbolic, abstract content of the paintings, using pure colour, clear lines and flatness to evoke an internal emotional impact on the viewer. He subsequently developed these ideas in his theory of synthetism. In turn, Gauguin’s opponent, Georges Seurat, used a number of scientific ideas about contrast and complementary colours in his work, pioneering a technique known as pointillism or divisionism.
Vincent van Gogh, on the other hand, shared the views of the impressionist Edgar Degas, but, in turn, was very sceptical of the work of post-impressionist Paul Cézanne, considering his work “commissioned”. The artist himself abandoned the subtlety of the impressionist drawing and the principles of academicism, used rich colours and wide bending strokes to convey his feelings, demonstrating the stylization, characteristic of Japanese ukiyo-e prints.
Post-impressionism in Paul Cézanne’s work was expressed in the architecturalisation of the image, when each part of the canvas had to contribute to its overall structural integrity. The artist used a series of orderly brushstrokes, as if he was “constructing” the painting, and not drawing it. When depicting nature “by means of a cylinder, a sphere and a cone”, Cézanne initiated a new direction in painting, cubism.
Post-impressionism strayed away from depicting the surrounding world. It delved into emotions and memories, creating new art and trying to connect with the viewer at a deeper level. This movement became a source for pointillism, symbolism, modernism and other areas of painting of the early 20th century.