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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
The “father of post-Impressionism,” Paul Cézanne was said to have laid the foundations for modernism and formed a bridge between Impressionism and Cubism.
Known for his experimental use of color and Synthetist style.
Rousseau was a self-taught genius and a major influence on avante-garde artists.
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.
Founder of Neo-Impressionism, known for devising painting techniques like pointillism and chromoluminarism, and widely appreciated for his conté crayon drawings.
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.
Famous Impressionist, then post-Impressionist painter, Maximilien Luce dabbled in pointillism and graphic art.
Paul Signac was a renowned artist who worked with Georges Seurat to develop the Pointillist style.
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.