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Post Impressionism

Art critics first used the term post-impressionistic in 1911 to loosely describe the work of a few artists whose paintings reflect Impressionistic principles, but were created after the movement had lost favour in the late seventeenth century (around 1885). Significant artists whose works have been defined in this category include Paul C zanne (1839-1906), Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) and Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890). Post-Impressionists, these few in particular, pushed Impressionist principles further than they had previously been explored. Those styles and techniques valued in this period focus on the painting of personal impressions (unlike earlier traditional painting) and a freer and more innovative use of colour to convey the mood or emotional feeling derived from the subject, as opposed to the fairly realistic, if often pastel-like (due to a desire to illuminate their work), use of colour promoted by the Impressionists.

In order to understand Post-Impressionism, the principles of the Impressionist movement have to be understood. The background from which Impressionism sprung was a period of industrial progress and a vibrant social scene. In Paris, some artists explored new ways of expression and broke free from the established French painting traditions enforced by the Salon. Artists took advantage of the contemporary scientific discoveries and industrialisation to improve the colour, lifespan, accessibility and general quality of the media (eg. The creation of smaller lightweight canvases for plein air painting, artificial paint pigments, and the invention of the collapsible metal paint tube in 1840 for easier transport.)

The primary school or group of painters established in the Post-Impressionist movement was called the Nabis School or the Pont-Aven group (after the France village where they were based). Gauguin was a founding member of the school, becoming the primary mentor of the group, and others looked to him for guidance and motivation. The members fundamentally promoted the principles of this movement, as embodied in the works of Gauguin and van Gogh, especially, and as summarised below.

Early subject matter often focussed on rural settings, peasants and field labour. Like those of the Impressionist period, later artists progressed to the exploration of a wider range of landscapes predominantly gardens, people in the environment (both interior and exterior) and enjoying social or leisure activities. Post-Impressionist works very often depicted aspects of contemporary life, using a vibrant non-naturalistic palette to express personal feeling and emotion.

The style favoured by the Post-Impressionists reflected that of the earlier movement works often possessed a loose sketchy painterly quality that gave merely the impression of the subject rather than a naturalistic reproduction but also experimented with techniques like the decorative use of colour, flatter application and often reflected the strong linear influence of Japanese ink drawing. Artists use of colour, and representation of light, captured not only their personal interpretation of the scene as the Impressionists did but also the mood or emotion the painter associates with the subject in that moment works were often painted very quickly in order to capture the light at a certain time of day. Other techniques include the painting of works of light-coloured canvases to increase luminosity in the pieces and the use of flat brushes in the application of the paint, allowing artists to block in colour broadly and quickly in short brushstrokes.

The Post-Impressionistic movement benefited from a break from established painting traditions similar to that of the Impressionists, creating pieces depicting the artist s impression of landscapes and lending insight to an aspect of contemporary life (rather than the narrative or moralistic works previously prized). Post-Impressionist artists, however, further developed these principles and experimented with new styles and techniques, the most prominent of which being the expressionistic, decorative and often unnatural use of colour to depict not only the subject or setting but the emotional state of the artist.


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