A Guide to Post-Impressionism: 10 Artists That Defined The Movement

Henri_Rousseau_-_Le_Rêve Henri_Rousseau_-_Le_Rêve

Post-Impressionism was an art movement that developed between 1886-1905. Artists responsible for its emergence were largely French, acting against Impressionism, which consisted of naturalistic works. 

Artists including Paul Cézanne (considered the “father of post-Impressionism”), Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, and Georges Seurat led the movement of post-Impressionism art, which consisted of abstract and symbolic elements. 

Van Gogh-The Large Plane Trees (Road Menders at Saint-Rémy)

Vincent Van Gogh, The Large Plane Trees (Road Menders at Saint-Rémy), (image via Wikimedia Commons)

Impressionism vs. Post-Impressionism

Impressionism was a Paris-based movement that rose to popularity in the 1870s and ‘80s, focused on short, thin brush strokes, an open composition, and the accurate depiction of light and color. Post-Impressionism, which developed after the last Impressionist exhibition and through the birth of Fauvism, in part rejected Impressionism, but in part extended upon it.

Post-Impressionists were simply dissatisfied with Impressionism; its lack of structure and trivial subjects made it a movement that could not be carried forward into modern times. Paul Cézanne wanted to change this, aiming to “make of Impressionism something solid and durable, like the art of museums.” He wanted to restore order and structure to painting

What is Post-Impressionism?

Post-Impressionism characteristics consisted of bright colors, and a thin, visible use of paint, as well as real-life subjects – all of which were also characteristics of Impressionism. However, artists of this new movement rejected Impressionism’s limitations.

They played with geometric, distorted forms, and often used colors not found in nature. Artists like Seurat and Camille Pissarro experimented with the technique of pointillism (which Pissarro called scientific Impressionism), using tiny dots of color in their works. Cézanne worked with saturated, natural colors found in Impressionism, but focused on portraying objects’ basic shapes. Van Gogh, meanwhile, swirled his very visible brushstrokes and used bright colors to express himself and his state of mind overall.

Camille Pissarro, Haying at Eragny

Camille Pissarro, Haying at Eragny (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Types of Post-Impressionism

Because of its broad abstract characteristics, the post-Impressionism movement also covers Cloisonnism, Les Nabis, Neo-Impressionism, Pont-Aven School, Symbolism, Synthetism, and a few works by later Impressionists. 


A style of post-Impressionist art characterized by bold, flat forms separated by dark outlines. The Yellow Christ by Paul Gaugin, 1889 (shown below) is a key example of Cloisonnism, featuring black outlines around single colors.

Paul Gauguin, The Yellow Christ (Le Christ jaune) 1889

Paul Gauguin, The Yellow Christ (Le Christ jaune) 1889 (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Les Nabis

A group of Paris-based French artists who, from 1888-1900, work to transition Impressionism to abstract art, symbolism, and other forms of modernism. Shown below is the first Nabis painting by Paul Sérusier, Le Bois d’Amour à Pont-Aven or Le Talisman, 1888.

Paul Sérusier, Le Bois d'Amour à Pont-Aven or Le Talisman

Paul Sérusier, Le Bois d’Amour à Pont-Aven or Le Talisman (Image: Wikimedia Commons)


An art movement founded by Georges Seurat, featuring his most famous work, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, 1884-86, shown below. Neo-Impressionists often painted modern urban scenes, landscapes, and seasides. The movement is characterized by a science-based interpretation of lines and colors.


Georges Seurat, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, 1884 (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Pont-Aven School

A school of art that includes works influenced by the French town, Pont-Aven. The school emerged in the 1850s and lasted through the early 20th century, and many of its artists were inspired by Paul Gauguin. They used bold colors and Symbolist subject matter. 

Paul Gauguin, Watermill in Pont-Aven, 1894

Paul Gauguin, Watermill in Pont-Aven, 1894 (Image: Wikimedia Commons)


A late 19th-century art movement led by the French, Belgians, and Russians. Featuring poetry and other types of art, it aims to represent absolute truths through symbolic, metaphorical images and language, purposefully contradicting naturalism and realism. 

The_Death_of_the_Grave_Digger Carlos Schwabe

Carlos Schwabe, The Death of the Grave Digger (Image: Wikimedia Commons)  


A term used by post-Impressionist artists including Gauguin and Émile Bernard, in order to distinguish their pieces from Impressionism. Once connected to Cloisonnism, artists aimed to “synthesize” three features: “the outward appearance of natural forms, the artists’ feelings about their subject, and the purity of the aesthetic considerations of line, color, and form.”

Émile Bernard, Breton Women in the Meadow

Émile Bernard, Breton Women in the Meadow (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Post-Impressionism Artists and Their Renowned Works

While post-Impressionist artists often exhibited their works together, they were not always in agreement about the characteristics of post-Impressionism; hence, it was not necessarily a cohesive movement. 

A key, overarching commonality, however, was the favoring of abstraction over naturalism. Some, like Seurat, took a more meticulous, scientific approach in their portrayals than others. Meanwhile, Gauguin concerned himself with the separation of single colors.

Despite their differences, below are just a few of the artists that shaped the movement, and their renowned works that continue to keep viewers awestruck.

Paul Cézanne

The “father of post-Impressionism,” Paul Cézanne was said to have laid the foundations for modernism and formed a bridge between Impressionism and Cubism.


Paul Cézanne, The Card Players (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Henri Edmond-Cross

Henri Edmond-Cross was a master of Neo-Impressionism with a heavy influence on Henri Matisse and many other artists, as well as on the development of Fauvism, which followed post-Impressionism.


Henri-Edmond Cross, Les cyprès à Cagnes, 1908 (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Paul Gauguin

Known for his experimental use of color and Synthetist style.

Paul_Gauguin_Where Are You Going-, or Woman Holding a Fruit

Paul Gauguin, Where Are You Going, or Woman Holding a Fruit (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Henri Rousseau

Rousseau was a self-taught genius and a major influence on avante-garde artists.


Henri Rousseau, Le Rêve (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

One of the best-known post-Impressionist painters, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was known for immersing himself in Paris theatre life in the late 19th-century.

Henri_de_Toulouse-Lautrec_La Clownesse Cha-U-Ka-O im Moulin Rouge

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, La Clownesse Cha-U-Ka-O im Moulin Rouge (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Odilon Redon

Odilon Redon was known for his dreamlike paintings, which were inspired by Japanese art and heavily played with abstraction.

Odilon Redon_Zyklop_anagoria

Odilon Redon, The Cyclops (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Georges Seurat

Founder of Neo-Impressionism, known for devising painting techniques like pointillism and chromoluminarism, and widely appreciated for his conté crayon drawings.


Georges Seurat, Le Chahut (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Vincent van Gogh

One of the most famous and influential figures in Western art history, Van Gogh has created about 2,100 landscapes, still lifes, portraits, and self-portraits that contributed to the foundations of modern art


Vincent van Gogh, Wheatfield with crows (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Maximilien Luce

Famous Impressionist, then post-Impressionist painter, Maximilien Luce dabbled in pointillism and graphic art.

Maximilien_Luce_-_'Montmartre,_de_la_rue_Cortot (1)

Maximilien Luce, ‘Montmartre de la rue Cortot (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Paul Signac

Paul Signac was a renowned artist who worked with Georges Seurat to develop the Pointillist style.


Paul Signac, Portrait de Félix Fénéon (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Post-Impressionism: Popularity at Auction Today

As young painters in the early 1900s began to experiment with different styles across the world, including Fauvism and Cubism, they eventually broke from post-Impressionism. However, post-Impressionism lives on in the above-mentioned works and many others that defined the movement.

Post-Impressionist paintings also remain popular at auction today. In 2005, La Blanchisseuse, an early painting of post-Impressionist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, sold at a Christie’s auction for $22.4 million, setting a new record for that artist at auction. Later in 2017, a canvas work by Vincent van Gogh, Laboureur dans un champ, 1889, sold for $81.3 million at a Christie’s auction.

Works by renowned post-Impressionists also continue to set records in private sales. In 2015, a 1892 painting of two Tahitian girls, Nafea Faa Ipoipo, or When Will You Marry?, by Paul Gauguin, reportedly sold to a museum in Qatar for $300 million by a Swiss collector. At the time, this sale made it the most expensive piece of art ever sold

Many post-Impressionist pieces can be found today in museums across the world, where, online and offline, more information is shared on its techniques and styles, its famed artists, its meaning, and its transition into succeeding, monumental modernist movements.