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The Art Story Homepage Movements, Styles, and Tendencies Post-Impressionism

Post-Impressionism

Post-Impressionism Collage

Started: Early 1880s

Ended: 1914

"Nature is not only all that is visible to the eye...It also includes the inner pictures of the soul."

Edvard Munch Signature

Summary of Post-Impressionism

Post-Impressionism encompasses a wide range of distinct artistic styles that all share the common motivation of responding to the opticality of the Impressionist movement. The stylistic variations assembled under the general banner of Post-Impressionism range from the scientifically oriented Neo-Impressionism of Georges Seurat to the lush Symbolism of Paul Gauguin, but all concentrated on the subjective vision of the artist. The movement ushered in an era during which painting transcended its traditional role as a window onto the world and instead became a window into the artist's mind and soul. The far-reaching aesthetic impact of the Post-Impressionists influenced groups that arose during the turn of the 20th century, like the Expressionists, as well as more contemporary movements, like the identity-related Feminist Art.

Key Ideas

Symbolic and highly personal meanings were particularly important to Post-Impressionists such as Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh. Rejecting interest in depicting the observed world, they instead looked to their memories and emotions in order to connect with the viewer on a deeper level.
Structure, order, and the optical effects of color dominated the aesthetic vision of Post-Impressionists like Paul Cézanne, Georges Seurat, and Paul Signac. Rather than merely represent their surroundings, they relied upon the interrelations of color and shape to describe the world around them.
Despite the various individualized styles, most Post-Impressionists focused on abstract form and pattern in the application of paint to the surface of the canvas. Their early leanings toward abstraction paved the way for the radical modernist exploration of abstraction that took place in the early-20th century.
Critics grouped the various styles within Post-Impressionism into two general, opposing stylistic trends - on one side was the structured, or geometric style that was the precursor to Cubism, while on the other side was the expressive, or non-geometric art that led to Abstract Expressionism.
Detail of <i>Four Apples</i> (c. 1881) by Paul Cézanne

Though Paul Cézanne famously said, "I will astonish Paris with an apple," he turned away from Paris (but not from fruits) for a quiet life in Provence where he painted, as he said, "nature by means of the cylinder, the sphere and the cone." His artistic approach launched one of the four major trends in movement now defined as Post-Impressionism. And his move to the countryside became a model for other Post-Impressionist leaders including Signac, Gauguin, and van Gogh, who also worked and lived in the South of France.

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