Art History Lab

Exploring the Revolutionary World of Post-Impressionism: A Comprehensive Guide

Post-Impressionism: A Definitive GuideThe late 19th century was a time of cultural flourishing in France, with numerous art movements competing for attention. One movement that stood out was Post-Impressionism, which emerged in response to the limitations of Impressionism.

In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at Post-Impressionism, its origin, influence, characteristics, and relationship to Impressionism. Origin and Influence of Post-Impressionism:

Post-Impressionism emerged in France during the late 19th century.

It was born out of a cultural and artistic hive, where several art movements vied for supremacy. Post-Impressionism was a response to the limitations of Impressionism, which focused primarily on the visual aspect of art.

However, Post-Impressionism sought to explore art’s emotional and spiritual dimensions, which was more subjective and personal. Artists like Vincent van Gogh created unique images that were a reflection of their liberty and creative process.

Post-Impressionism was aimed at producing an accurate reflection of the artist’s perspective, which was a subjective interpretation of the world. Definition and Characteristics of Post-Impressionism:

Post-Impressionism is characterized by its subjectivity, imagination, and departure from the traditional artistic styles.

Vincent van Gogh is one of the most prominent Post-Impressionist artists whose works have been popularized. In his artworks, van Gogh explored emotions, thoughts, and experiences, producing unorthodox and highly imaginative pieces.

Post-Impressionists believed that art should not be limited to the mere depiction of reality but should instead strive for deeper meaning and expression. Hence, Post-Impressionist artists experimented with vivid colors, bold brushstrokes and created works that were more symbolic and profound.

Relationship Between Post-Impressionism and Impressionism:

There is a significant relationship between Post-Impressionism and Impressionism. Post-Impressionism was a term that initially emerged as a derogatory term used to describe artists who deviated from Impressionism.

However, the term was later claimed by Post-Impressionist artists like Cezanne, Van Gogh, Seurat, and Gauguin. Post-Impressionism is, in a way, an offshoot of Impressionism and should be understood in the context of its predecessor.

The Impressionist movement focused on the visual aspect of art, using light and color to capture the essence of a moment. In contrast, Post-Impressionism sought to expand the boundaries of artistic expression, incorporating more symbolic and emotional aspects.

Differences Between Post-Impressionism and Impressionism:

Perhaps one of the most apparent differences between Post-Impressionism and Impressionism is their focus. While Impressionism focused primarily on the visual aspect of art, Post-Impressionism delved deeper into the emotional and spiritual dimensions.

Post-Impressionists were interested in exploring the full range of human emotions, and their artworks conveyed more profound and symbolic meanings. Unlike Impressionist artists who used color to capture an impression of a moment, Post-Impressionist artists used vivid colors to represent emotions and experiences.

Another significant difference is the role that imagination played in Post-Impressionism. Post-Impressionist artists were free to use their imagination, making their artworks more subjective and personal.


In conclusion, Post-Impressionism was a groundbreaking movement that revolutionized art. Its origin, influence, characteristics, and relationship to Impressionism demonstrate its importance in 19th-century France.

By broadening the scope of artistic expression, Post-Impressionism paved the way for more innovative and experimental art. The works of Van Gogh, Cezanne, Seurat, and Gauguin continue to inspire artists worldwide, and their contributions to the art world remain unforgettable.

Styles and Characteristics of Post-Impressionism:

Post-Impressionism encompasses several styles that emerged in response to the limitations of Impressionism. In this section, we’ll explore some of the key Post-Impressionist styles and their defining characteristics.


Pointillism was developed by Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, prominent Post-Impressionist artists. Pointillism is characterized by small brushstrokes of single dots of pure color that are optically mixed to create a continuous color.

This technique is also referred to as Divisionism or Chromo-luminarism. Pointillism aimed to create a greater depth of color as opposed to blending the colors through brush strokes.

The result is an incredibly vibrant and dynamic picture that appears to shimmer and glow.


Japonisme was a trend that swept through the art world in the late 19th century.

Japanese prints and paintings captured the attention of many European artists and influenced their compositions, colors, and perspectives. Japonisme had a profound impact on Post-Impressionism, which sought to broaden artistic boundaries and incorporate new influences.

Japonisme inspired artists to focus on composition, simplicity of line, and the use of flat planes of color, leading to an entirely new aesthetic. Synthetism:

Synthetism was invented by Paul Gauguin, intending to use subjective interpretation in artistic features such as tone, line, and shape.

The objective of synthetism was to create an emotional and imaginative depth by utilizing the shapes and colors in a highly imaginative and symbolic way. Paul Gauguin used memory and imagination to create works that were both highly personal and transcendent in their universality.

By relying heavily on subjective interpretation and emotion, Synthetism represented a significant departure from traditional forms of art. Pictorial Form:

Pictorial Form is an artistic style developed by Paul Czanne, known for his use of form and structure in landscapes, still life, and portraits.

Czanne is renowned for creating beautiful compositions out of the most prosaic of objects, and he used his command of structure and form to create works that were both beautiful and thought-provoking. Czanne used a pioneering style that emphasized the essential forms of objects and portrayed them in a highly stylized way, inspiring future generations of artists.


Primitivism was a significant trend that emerged in the Post-Impressionist movement and was exemplified by artists such as Henri Rousseau and Pablo Picasso. Primitivism is defined by its use of primitive art forms and symbolism.

Artists used the primitive art of different cultures as a starting point to create works of art that incorporated a more profound sense of imagination and symbolism. Les Nabis:

Les Nabis was a group of Post-Impressionist artists, including Paul Srusier, Maurice Denis, and Pierre Bonnard, who sought to achieve a harmonious balance between spirituality and subjectivism.

Les Nabis’ influence was felt throughout the art world, inspiring artists across Europe to explore the interplay between color, tone, and line. Les Nabis artists also worked in other mediums like stained glass and sculpture.

Notable Post-Impressionist Artworks and Artists:

Several Post-Impressionist artists produced artworks that captured their era’s zeitgeist. In this section, we’ll explore some of the most notable Post-Impressionist artworks and artists.

The Starry Night:

The Starry Night is a famous artwork by Vincent van Gogh, created while he was staying at an asylum. This piece is highly symbolic, as it is thought to represent the artist’s emotional connection to the world beyond.

The night sky acts as a window to the universe above, and the swirling lines and dreamy composition suggest a profound sense of emotional depth. The Yellow Christ:

The Yellow Christ is an artwork by Paul Gauguin.

This piece depicts a figure on the cross with a yellow tint, evoking a spiritual experience with its use of symbolism and form. The Vision After the Sermon:

The Vision After the Sermon is another artwork by Paul Gauguin, inspired by a biblical scene.

This piece makes use of juxtaposition, synthesis, and narrative to convey spiritual depth and mythological elements. The image’s composition creates a sense of depth and power that draws the viewer into a powerful and transformative experience.

The Card Players:

The Card Players is an artwork by Paul Czanne that depicts a group of peasant men engaged in a card game. This artwork is known for its use of form and structure, with the elements of the painting constructed to create a sense of balance and poise.

Other Key Post-Impressionist Artists:

Post-Impressionism was a movement that encompassed a wide range of artists. Odilon Redon, Henri Rousseau, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, and Georges Seurat are among the most notable.

Their artworks continue to inspire and influence artists worldwide, and their contributions to the art world remain unforgettable.

In conclusion, Post-Impressionism is a highly influential art movement known for its focus on the emotional and spiritual aspects of art.

The movement was characterized by several styles, including pointillism, Japonisme, synthetism, pictorial form, primitivism, les Nabis, among others. Several Post-Impressionist artworks and artists continue to inspire the world and leave a lasting legacy in the art world.

Importance of Post-Impressionism:

Post-Impressionism is one of the most important and influential movements in the history of art. In this section, we’ll explore the impact of Post-Impressionism and its significance in the evolution of painting and influence on modern art.

Evolution of Painting and Influence on Modern Art:

Post-Impressionism marked a significant departure from traditional methods of painting, with artists striving to explore the deeper emotional and spiritual aspects of art. Paul Czanne’s groundbreaking use of form and structure in pictorial forms influenced the Cubist movement.

The Cubist movement relied on reducing the subjects’ forms to simple geometric shapes, breaking down technical rules, and offering a new perspective on the world through art. Post-Impressionism’s emphasis on subjective interpretation, emotion, and self-expression lay the groundwork for Expressionism and Abstract Expressionism, movements that reject traditional modes of representation in favor of internal states and personal symbol systems.

Fauvism drew inspiration from Post-Impressionism’s free-wheeling use of color, as seen in the works of Henri Matisse. Fauvism aimed to emphasize the subjective approach, expressing emotion, and personal points of view.

Modernism, a movement characterized by self-consciousness, introspection, and aesthetic experimentation, was also influenced by Post-Impressionism. Post-Impressionism’s impact on art can be felt throughout the modern era and has continued to influence the development of contemporary art.

Emotional and Spiritual Connection in Art:

One of Post-Impressionism’s most significant contributions to the art world is its emphasis on depth, subjective interpretation, self-expression, and connection to the human experience. Post-Impressionist artists explored the deeper emotional and spiritual aspects of art and sought to express it through their works.

This emphasis on the emotional and spiritual connection in art paved the way for modern artists to create works that are more deeply personal, introspective, and expressive. Post-Impressionism’s exploration of subjective interpretation allowed artists to break free from the objective depiction of reality, paving the way for a more profound representation of human emotions, thoughts, and beliefs.

This approach has subsequently become the foundation of modern art. Frequently Asked Questions:

In this section, we’ll explore some common questions about Post-Impressionism.

Difference Between Post-Impressionism and Impressionism:

Post-Impressionism is often considered a response to Impressionism. Impressionism emphasized the visual qualities of art, focusing on light and color to create a realistic impression of a particular moment.

In contrast, Post-Impressionism delved deeper into the emotional and spiritual dimensions of art and sought to express it through personal and subjective interpretations of the world. Characteristics of Impressionism:

Impressionism is defined by its focus on the shimmering effects of light and color, and the use of quick, broken brush strokes to capture the fleeting impression of a moment.

Impressionist artworks are characterized by their lightness and luminosity, and often depict scenes from modern life and contemporary Paris. Most Famous Post-Impressionists:

Vincent van Gogh is perhaps the most famous Post-Impressionist artist known for his expressive and emotive works.

Paul Czanne’s use of form and structure in pictorial forms has influenced the Cubist movement. Henri Rousseau’s primitivism has inspired several artists, including Pablo Picasso.

Paul Gauguin’s Synthetism and Symbolism have influenced many artists, and Georges Seurat’s Pointillism has inspired artists to explore the finer aspects of color and light. Pablo Picasso’s association with Post-Impressionism:

Pablo Picasso was a Cubist and Neoclassicist artist and was not a post-Impressionist per se.

However, he was heavily influenced by Post-Impressionism and especially enamored with the works of Paul Czanne, whose pioneering use of form and structure was a significant influence on the Cubist style, of which Picasso was a pioneer. Conclusion:

In conclusion, Post-Impressionism has left an indelible mark on the art world, paving the way for modern art movements that challenge traditional modes of representation and explore the deeper emotional and spiritual dimensions of art.

The movement’s impact on modern art is undeniable, inspiring artists to explore new ways of creating artistic works that represent a deeper and more personal perspective on the world. In conclusion, Post-Impressionism is a highly influential movement that revolutionized the art world.

It emerged as a response to the limitations of Impressionism, exploring the emotional and spiritual dimensions of art. Post-Impressionist artists like Van Gogh, Czanne, and Gauguin pushed the boundaries of artistic expression, inspiring modern art movements such as Cubism, Expressionism, and Abstract Expressionism.

By emphasizing subjective interpretation, self-expression, and the deeper human experience, Post-Impressionism laid the foundation for modern artists to create more personal and introspective works. The importance of Post-Impressionism lies in its lasting impact on the evolution of painting and its ability to evoke profound emotions and connections with the viewer.

The movement serves as a reminder that art has the power to express the complexities of the human experience and leave an indelible mark on the world.

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