Post-Impressionist Period, Its Features and Movements

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Topic: Art & Design
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The artistic period which I would like to visit is the Post-Impressionism period as it is very different from the other periods of its time due to the use of unnatural, arbitrary and vivid colors, typical brushstrokes and thicker coating of paint thus, emphasizing more on geometric and distort forms for better effect.

The artists of this era also emphasized symbolic content and abstract qualities rather than natural colors and light. This movement produced a number of daring and liveliest of paintings even under an atmosphere of disdain and mockery where the artists had almost no patronage or support from others and were often found to be very poor. (Elkins, 136-7)

The Post-Impressionism period describes the development of art in France after Edouard Manet, and although it extends Impressionism, it does not contain the limitations of that era. This school of painting abandoned the intentional naturalism of the Impressionist artists and embraced colors and form expressing them in a more personal manner.

This era can be dated between 1980 and 1905, after which Fauvism emerged, and small traces of Cubism became apparent. This artistic movement was led by Vincent van Gogh, Georges Pierre Seurat, Paul Cézanne and Paul Gauguin.

While the Impressionists tried to produce visual effects, the Post-Impressionist artist tried to fuse together social significance, psychological depth, and emotion by utilizing the power of colors and symbols. (Calo & Stokstad, 223-226)

The reason due to which the Post-Impressionist movement came into being was because the Post-Impressionist artists were not satisfied with the little significance given to the artistic subject matters causing loss of structure in the Impressionist paintings. This led to Paul Cézanne’s revolutionizing painting by restoring some structure and order in his works to make them durable and solid.

He reduced his objects to fundamental shapes but retained their pure bright colors. Similarly, Vincent van Gogh utilized his bold brushwork to convey his personal thoughts and feelings.

Vincent van Gogh along with Paul Gauguin even had an affinity for a spiritual approach, which enabled them to express more by adding symbolic meaning and emotions to their artwork. This era also connected Impressionist artist’s affinity towards nature to the contemporary trends of abstract art, Fauvism, and Cubism of the 20th century.

Post-Impressionism consists of a number of other movements which are:

  1. Neo-Impressionism – Also known as Divisionism, it emphasized on the use of light and color and applying thick strokes of primary colors and began in 1886. Georges Pierre Seurat also emphasized Pointillism, where tiny dots of primary colors were systematically used to create the impression of intermediary and primary colors.
  2. Cloisonne – In this style of painting, flat and bold forms were used that were divided by dark contours. Paul Gauguin and Louis Anquetin started painting in this form in around 1888.
  3. Synthetism – Artists like Paul Gauguin, Émile Bernard, and Louis Anquetin used this form in 1889. These artists attempted to synthesize their paintings so as to produce a new and complex art form by combining the visual aspect of natural forms, the personal feelings of the artists, and the pureness present in the use of form, line, and color.
  4. Pont-Aven School – This term was used for the painters who worked around Pont-Aven around the early 1880s and is characterized by the use of pure color, bold strokes, and choice of Symbolist subjects.
  5. Symbolism – This term was mainly used in 1891 after Paul Gauguin abandoned Synthetism. (Sylvester, 63)

The Post-Impressionist period is significant since the artists of the period finally abandoned the traditional perspective, modeling, and use of colors and moved towards the simplification of object form and structure emphasizing more on gestures and pure colors for increasing emotional impact.

Another major characteristic feature of this era was an increase in intellectual awareness among the people who realized their individual position in the social structure of that time. This period emphasized more on style rather than details and also on the importance of man’s intimate relationship with nature.

A lot of experimentation was also carried out where the application and mixture of paint were based on scientific methods devised by Paul Signat, and Georges Pierre Seurat, and also scientific, optical and mathematical techniques were applied based on the geometric references of Paul Cézanne. (Elkins, 98)

The Post-Impressionism era was widespread throughout Europe and even in the West, and although it was not accepted by all, it was inevitable. The Post-Impressionist artists continued the use of everyday subjects, bright colors, and broken brushstrokes, which was preferred by the Impressionist artists while keeping abstract techniques in mind.

Even today, we can immediately recognize the geometric planes of Paul Cézanne, compatibility in the colors of Paul Gauguin, Pointillism, and the use of dots in the works of Georges Pierre Seurat and lofty brush strokes in the paintings of Vincent van Gogh. (Wood & Frascina, 115-117)

Impressionism was considered to be among the greatest artistic revolutions, but the Post-Impressionist movement represented the high peak that was achieved through individual expression of creative and artistic freedom.

Works Cited

Calo, Carole G. & Stokstad, Marilyn. Art History. Dublin: Prentice Hall, 1996.

Elkins, James. Why Art Cannot Be Taught: A Handbook For Art Students. Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2001.

Sylvester, David. About modern art. Edition: 2. London: Yale University Press, 2002.

Wood, Paul & Frascina, F. Modernism in dispute: art since the Forties. London: Yale University Press, 1993.