+
3 Tutorials that teach Post-Impressionism
Take your pick:
Post-Impressionism

Post-Impressionism

Author: Ian McConnell
Description:

This lesson will examine the style and subject matter of Post-Impressionism.

(more)
See More

Try Sophia’s Art History Course. For Free.

Our self-paced online courses are a great way to save time and money as you earn credits eligible for transfer to over 2,000 colleges and universities.*

Begin Free Trial
No credit card required

25 Sophia partners guarantee credit transfer.

221 Institutions have accepted or given pre-approval for credit transfer.

* The American Council on Education's College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE Credit®) has evaluated and recommended college credit for 20 of Sophia’s online courses. More than 2,000 colleges and universities consider ACE CREDIT recommendations in determining the applicability to their course and degree programs.

Tutorial

An overview of Post-Impressionism.

Video Transcription

Download PDF

[MUSIC PLAYING] Hello. I'd like to welcome you to this episode of Exploring Art History with Ian. My name is Ian McConnell, and today's lesson is about Post-Impressionism. As you're watching the video feel free to pause, move forward, or rewind as often as you feel is necessary. And as soon as you're ready we can begin.

Today's objectives, or the things you're going to learn today, are listed below. By the end of the lesson today you'll be able to identify and define today's key terms, describe the influences behind the development of Post-Impressionism, and identify examples of Post-Impressionist artwork.

Key terms as always are listed in yellow throughout the lesson. First key term is Post-Impressionism, a movement in painting that rejected aspects of Impressionism while retaining an interest in color and expressive brush stroke. Atmosphere Perspective, a form of perspective in which more distant objects are depicted in a greyish or bluish haze. Pointillism, a Post-Impressionist movement in painting characterized by the use of tiny dots instead of brush strokes that blend together when viewed from a distance.

Color Theory, the study of how colors relate to one another, including color mixing, the color wheel, and warm and cool colors. And Impasto, the thick buildup of paint, usually oil or acrylic, on the surface of a painting. The big idea for today is that Post-Impressionist artists experimented with line, form, and color, but in ways that were all very different. For this reason, Post-Impressionism is more of a chronological than stylistic reference.

And the artwork that we're looking at today dates from between 1884 and 1894. We'll be traveling to Paris, France today. Now, it's important point out that Post-Impressionism, while more of a chronological reference than a specific style, and I'll explain more in a moment, literally means after impressionism. But it means post impressionism more in the spirit of the style rather than in a specific time period. In other words, Post-Impressionists were painting at the same time as Impressionists.

Post-Impressionism developed out of the belief that many artists felt that Impressionism had essentially run its course, that it couldn't be taken any further, that it grew weary from an overall lack of structure and focus on trivial subject matter, like fleeting moments. Impressionism lingered into the early 20th century alongside Post-Impressionism. It was a different approach to painting and as a stylistic movement emphasized experimentation such as in the type of brushstroke used, in color experimentation, the distortion of form, and, in the case of Paul Cezanne, the existence of an underlying geometry. Now, in many ways it moved beyond the sketchiness of Impressionism and incorporated a bit more structure while retaining many of the painterly aspects of Impressionism. And this can make the distinction between Impressionism and Post-Impressionism a little difficult for the art history novice.

Paul Cezanne is a very important painter, not only for his contributions to Post-Impressionism but for serving as a bridge of sorts between the art of the 19th and 20th centuries and more specifically bridging Impressionism with the modern art movements of the early 20th century. Cezanne sought to make something solid out of Impressionism, articulating space and volume through color and geometric forms.

This is what makes Cezanne's work so recognizable. You can start to see these repeated patches of square color, like you see here, and applied to more traditional forms of painting such as the landscape or the still life. Now, notice how in this example of a still life with a basket of apples the space and volume of the painting is articulated through color rather than through shadow. Now, it's an analytic approach to painting that makes his artwork appear, at least to me, as more experimentation than emotional.

Emotional would be something more closely attributed to the Post-Impressionist work of Vincent van Gogh. Now, the correct pronunciation of his name is something more like van Hochh, like you're clearing your throat. The pronunciation van Gogh is quite ubiquitous, though, and acceptable. So it's the form I'm going to use.

Now, van Gogh's life is really a fascinating and tragic look at the effects of mental illness on an individual and the emotional toil that van Gogh dealt with and articulated through his work. Now, this is one of his most famous works, titled Starry Night, supposedly painted from memory of a view outside his sanitarium, or asylum, window while staying there in France. He had actually checked himself in because he was going through a bad spell.

Now, van Gogh uses impasto, which is the buildup of paint on a surface to create a tactile effect. He uses color and form to create an expressive and emotional piece of art. Now, the serenity of the evening is lost in the frenetic activity and vibration of the sky. It's a personal interpretation by van Gogh of a realistic scene, an interpretation they may have mirrored the internal frenzy of his own mind and an early example of Expressionist art that undoubtedly influenced later artists of the 20th century.

Pointillism was a form of experimental art developed in part by George Seurat that was an exercise in color theory as much as it was a new way to paint. Now, pointillism is, in fact, in many ways a precursor to modern pixels and how they are assembled to form a picture. Now, take this image of Mount Hood, for example. From a distance the image appears completely cohesive and realistic looking. But if we were to zoom in on a particular area, like we see here in the red, you would see that the picture is actually made up of millions of individual blocks of color, little points called pixels.

Now, pointillism is essentially the same idea except that the dots are applied painstakingly by hand. Now, as opposed to mixing colors, the artist relies on distance and the light color of the canvas showing through to help blend the colors together. It's an effective method and creates a rather unique look. Colors tend to pop a bit more, which may have to do with the fact that the canvas is actually visible between the dots. I always thought the look appeared like color television static.

This particular painting, sometimes referred to colloquially as Sunday in the Park, is an enormous canvas held at the Art Institute in Chicago. And by huge I mean it takes up an entire wall. It's rather impressive. You really need to see paintings like this up close to appreciate the effect.

Now, Seurat died quite young, about 31 or so, if I remember correctly. And his final painting, which I believe was incomplete at the time of his death, shows how refined his technique had become in such a short period of time. Now, of particular note is how he's capable of depicting shadow, like you can see here on the horse. Each dot of color really stands alone in a pointillist painting, which meant that there was very little margin for error.

Now, this final image shows just how varied the art of Post-Impressionism was. One of the most unifying attributes of Post-Impressionism is this idea of experimentation. This work of art also shows the influence Japanese prints on the art of the late 19th century, something we'll explore more in a separate lesson. The flatness of the image and interesting use of contour lines is drastically different from Seurat's work, for example, but shares a vision shared by all Post-Impressionist artists, which is to take the concept of what art could be and move it in bold new directions.

So, that brings to the end of our lesson. Let's take a look at our objectives again to see if we met them. Now that you've seen the lesson are you able to identify and define today's key terms? Can you describe the influences behind the development of Post-Impressionism? Can you identify examples of Post-Impressionist art work?

Now, once again, the big idea for today is that Post-Impressionist artists experimented with line, form, and color, but in ways that were all very different. For this reason, Post-Impressionism is more of a chronological than stylistic reference. That's it. Thank you very much for joining me today. I'll see you next time.

Notes on "Post-Impressionism"

Key Terms

Post-Impressionism

A movement in painting that rejected aspects of Impressionism while retaining an interest in color and expressive brushstroke.

Atmospheric Perspective

A form of perspective in which more distant objects are depicted in a greyish or bluish haze. 

Pointillism

A Post-Impressionist movement in painting characterized by the use of tiny dots instead of brushstrokes that blend together when viewed from a distance.

Color Theory

The study of how colors relate to one another, including color mixing, the color wheel, and warm and cool colors.

Impasto

The thick buildup of paint, usually oil or acrylic, on the surface of a painting.

Citations

Mount Sainte-Victorie; Public Domain: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Paul_C%C3%A9zanne_107.jpg Sunday on La Grande; Public Domain: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:A_Sunday_on_La_Grande_Jatte,_Georges_Seurat,_1884.png Still Life with Apples; Public Domain: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Paul_C%C3%A9zanne_185.jpg The Circuis; Public Domain: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Georges_Seurat_019.jpg Van Gough; Starry Night: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Van_Gogh_-_Starry_Night_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg; Image of La Reine de Joie Public Domain http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lautrec_reine_de_joie_(poster)_1892.jpg; Image of Mount Hood Public Domain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mount_Hood_reflected_in_Mirror_Lake,_Oregon.jpg

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Post-Impressionism

    A movement in painting that rejected aspects of Impressionism while retaining an interest in color and expressive brushstroke.

  • Atmospheric Perspective

    A form of perspective in which more distant objects are depicted in a greyish or bluish haze.

  • Pointillism

    A Post-Impressionist movement in painting characterized by the use of tiny dots instead of brushstrokes that blend together when viewed from a distance.

  • Color Theory

    The study of how colors relate to one another, including color mixing, the color wheel, and warm and cool colors.

  • Impasto

    The thick buildup of paint, usually oil or acrylic, on the surface of a painting.