Month: December 2015




Detail-Seurat 2

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, by Georges Seurat, 1884-86 (detail)

Post-Impressionism was a dynamic French art movement that began after the last exhibition of the Impressionists in 1886.  It lasted until 1905 with the appearance of the Fauves who ushered in Modernism and the 20th century.  The movement evolved as a reaction to what the artists felt was lacking in Impressionism. It was a very fluid period, a time when artists lived together showing and sharing their work.  In this way they were stimulated by each other’s talent and vision. Although Paris was the center of the movement, some artists formed groups in Brittany and the South of France. They often started out in one style evolving into another and then yet another, always following their unique visions of what they saw and felt.Many distinct artistic styles developed which later proved to be the basis of the art that developed in the 20th century.

The art critic, Roger Fry, coined the term Post-Impressionism in 1910 when he described the artists who extended Impressionism while rejecting its limitations. During the 1880s some of the younger artists that were experimenting with Impressionism began to try different ways of interpreting line, form, color, and pattern. They were dissatisfied with the opticality of the Impressionist movement and wanted to find meaning and expression in their art.

Post-Impressionism was characterized by:

  • the use of vivid colors often unnatural or arbitrary
  • thick application of paint
  • real-life subject matter
  • distortion of forms for expression
  • emphasis on structure-geometric or color theory

The groups however followed two main orientations which went from the scientific color theory of Seurat’s Pointillism to the lush, colorful, and expressive work that was done by the Pont-Aven School artists such as Gauguin. The artists painting in Brittany developed into the schools of Syntheism, Cloisonnism, Les Nabis, and Symbolism. Those focusing on color theory wanted structure, order, and the optical effects created with color as found in the work of Paul Cézanne, Georges Seurat, and Paul Signac.  The other group from the art colony of Pont-Aven developed a lush, symbolic vision based on the subjective view of the artist. Having left Paris, they were looking for meaning and simplicity.Paul Gauguin, Emile Bernard, and Vincent van Gogh thus explored the concept of the painting as a personal window into the mind and soul of the artist, not just a window into the realistic world.This concept would later in the 20th century lead into Modern Art, German Expressionism, Abstract Expressionism, and Feminist Art.


Self Portrait by Vincent van Gogh, 1887

Paul Cézanne was the only artist who exhibited with the Impressionists. After a brief time in Paris, he went south to Aix-en-Provence where he painted for the rest of his life.  In his landscapes and still lifes he revolutionized painting by seeing reality in geometric planes. He introduced the concept of simultaneity, seeing an object from more than one point of view.  Along with many of the other Post- Impressionists he also altered the concept of the traditional picture space that had been the standard since the Renaissance. This original way of seeing later contributed to Cubism and Abstract Art.

Although there were two opposing stylistic trends developing, abstraction and expressionism, there was still a common element that was shared by all of the Post-Impressionists. It was the focus on abstract form and pattern in the application of paint to the canvas.  This can be seen in all the work that was introduced during this very innovative and formative time.


Still Life with Seven Apples by Paul Cézanne, 1878

Following is a list of the Post-Impressionist groups and some of the main artists within those groups.


  • Georges Seurat
  • Paul Signac
  • Claude Pissarro
  • Henri-Edmond Cross
  • Charles Angrand
  • Maximilien Luce
  • Henri Matisse

Pont-Aven School- Syntheism-Cloisonnism

  • Paul Gauguin
  • Emile Bernard
  • Paul Sérusier
  • Charles Leval
  • Cuno Amiet
  • Louis Anquetin
  • Maurice Denis


  • Paul Gaugin
  • Odilon Redon
  • Gustave Moreau
  • James Whistler
  • Edvard Munch
  • Pierre Bonnard
  • Henri Rousseau
  • Puvis de Chavannes

Les Nabis

  • Maurice Denis
  • Paul Sérusier
  • Pierre Bonnard
  • Édouard Vuillard
  • Astrid Maillol
  • Paul Ransom
  • Ker-Xavier Roussel
  • Felix Vallotton

Other Notable Post-Impressionists

  • Paul Cézanne
  • Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

le baiser

Au Lit: Le Baiser by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1892
Sold Christie’s New York: November 9, 2015   $12,485,000.