Post-Impressionism – 6 Interesting Facts

Post-Impressionism (circa 1886-1905) began with Impressionist artists who pursued specific aspects of painting. They redirected their focus from “impressions” of the outside world to personal subjects. This innovative era gave rise to many unique styles and movements in modern art. To learn more about this influential period, here are the following facts:

1. Post-Impressionism created interest in the artist’s self-expression.

  • Post-Impressionists sought to break away from Impressionism’s preoccupation with lighting techniques. They refocused on subject matter and the artist’s emotions therein.
  • Scenes of nature and urban life fell out of favor due to this shift. Art became introspective and based on recalling personal memories instead of a scene.

2. Post-Impressionist techniques exaggerated Impressionism’s “broken” appearance and bright colors.

  • Vincent van Gogh developed an impasto technique with varied and energetic brushstrokes. He used vivid color combinations and lines to heighten the emotion of his works.
  • Georges Seurat took the broken appearance even further to create Pointillism. He used science and art theories to develop optical effects and a new way to perceive color.

3. Post-Impressionism has two subcategories.

  • Despite varied styles, Post-Impressionist art is either organic and expressive; or geometric and structured.
  • The first subcategory gave rise to Expressionism, Fauvism, and Symbolism. The second evolved into the Neo-Impressionist and Cubist movements.

4. Post-Impressionists exhibited together but worked alone.

  • Unlike the socialite Impressionists, these artists’ individualism extended to the way they worked. One by one, they withdrew from Impressionism to develop art with more permanence.
  • Paris was no longer the center of the movement and the artists often worked in isolation. Van Gogh painted in the Arles countryside, Paul Cézanne at Aix-en-Provence, and Paul Gauguin in Tahiti.

5. Japanese art inspired some Post-Impressionist artists.

  • Van Gogh was fond of ukiyo-e (Japanese woodblock prints) and used them to study new painting styles.
  • The Les Nabis group of artists developed their whimsical style by adapting Japanese colors, patterns, and line art.

6. The term “Post-Impressionism” first appeared after the end of the movement.

  • Critic Roger Fry coined the term in 1910. By this time, Expressionism, Cubism, and Fauvism had dominated the European art scene.
  • The word may have been part of a successful marketing strategy. It linked the famous Édouard Manet with the then-lesser known artists van Gogh, Seurat, Cézanne, Gauguin, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The exhibit at the Grafton Gallery was called “Manet and the Post-Impressionists.”

Post-Impressionism shifted focus from the observable world to inner thought. Artists of the era practiced a broad range of techniques, developing many new ways of thinking and creating art.