Lesson 26: Post-Impressionist Art

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What You Will Learn:

  • Explore All Art Movements and Periods

    You will learn about all the leading art movements and periods, such as primitive art, ancient Greek art, the Renaissance, Romanticism, Impressionism, Modernism, and contemporary art. There is also a lot of attention to non-Western art, such as Islamic Art, Hindu Art, Chinese Art, Oceanic Art and African Art, and the globalization of the art world.

  • All Famous Artists and Their Masterpieces

    The course covers important artists like Sultan Muhammad, Fan Kuan, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Utagawa Hiroshige, Vincent van Gogh, Ilya Repin, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Frida Kahlo, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Banksy and many more, and discusses their most influential works.

  • Cultural and Historical Context

    Our courses also focus on the study of the cultural, social, political, and economic contexts in which artworks are created.

  • Various Media and Techniques

    You will explore different art forms and techniques, such as painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, and digital art.

Introduction to this course:


For centuries, as has always been the case in art and society, there are artists who seek to innovate and renew. Artists are constantly in search of new ways of expression, both in the subjects they paint, sculpt, or build, and in the techniques they employ. It was inevitable, therefore, that there would be a reaction to the art style known in painting as Impressionism.
This new style period is what we now call the era of post-impressionist art, which lasted roughly from 1885 to 1910.

Knightsbridge from Sloane Street in London (Fine December Morning), uit de periode 1903-1913, van de kunstschilder Jacques-Émile Blanche Image: Knightsbridge from Sloane Street in London (Fine December Morning) from the period 1903-1913, by the post-impressionist painter Jacques-Émile Blanche (1861-1942). It offers a vivid portrayal of everyday life in the city of London at the beginning of the 20th century. Notable in the painting are the double-decker horse-drawn trams traveling through the streets. The Frenchman Jacques-Émile Blanche painted many portraits throughout his life.
Location: This painting by Jacques-Émile Blanche is owned by the York Museums Trust, which manages several museums in the English fortress city of York. Knightsbridge Street runs south from Hyde Park towards Rutland Gardens, where it becomes Kensington Road. Sloane Street is a famous shopping street in London with many outstanding restaurants.

The most notable representatives of the post-impressionist art style period are Paul Cézanne, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Vincent van Gogh, Georges Seurat, Paul Gauguin, and the sculptors Auguste Rodin and Camille Claudel. Post-impressionist painters ceased merely representing nature in all its realistic forms. They no longer wanted to imitate nature but to give it a different, personal interpretation. They aimed to express more than just the reality they perceived. The paintings were meant to reflect more of the painter’s inner feelings, as Vincent van Gogh so poignantly expressed in his letter to his brother Theo (see below on this webpage in the Vincent van Gogh section). This sentiment was showcased on canvas by portraying shapes subjectively, distorting colors, representing them in flat surfaces, or intensifying them. The latter was sometimes done literally by playing with the paint’s thickness on the canvas or applying it in small dots, as in pointillism.

Portret van Camille Roulin, uit 1888, van Vincent van Gogh. Het is een portret van de zoon van de postbode in Arles waarmee hij bevriend was. Image: Portrait of Camille Roulin, from 1888, by Vincent van Gogh. It’s a portrait of the son of the postman in Arles with whom he was friends. This painting exemplifies Van Gogh’s technique of using thick paint in the form of short strokes, inspired by pointillism. The subjective color scheme is also a defining feature of post-impressionism. Especially the use of contrasting colors makes this painting so intense and lively. Contrasting colors are colors that stand directly opposite each other, as in this painting with the red button on the green jacket and the blue cap with the orangey face underneath.
Location: This portrait of Camille Roulin is on display at the Van Gogh Museum, located at Museumplein 6 in the Zuid district of Amsterdam. Photo: Kajsa Rokebrand.

In other words, post-impressionist painters infused emotion onto the canvas, altered the texture, applied contrasting colors, and sought new compositions on the canvas. It was also a period when painters predominantly charted their own paths. In the impressionistic style, many similarities could be found in the artists’ works. This shifted during the post-impressionist style period. It’s not that the post-impressionists entirely abandoned the past. On the contrary, they built on the lessons of impressionist art but gave it their personal touch, which also led to new and experimental styles. These styles included pointillism, cloisonnism, and synthetism, also referred to as symbolism.

De Serenade in Venetië, uit 1907, van de kunstschilder Henri Le Sidaner
Image: The Serenade in Venice (La Sérénade, Venise), from 1907, by Henri Le Sidaner. A beautiful painting depicting gondolas on Venice’s Grand Canal, with the illuminated Doge’s Palace in the background. This painting clearly shows Henri Le Sidaner’s interest in the play of light during the night, a theme recurrent in his works. Post-1900, his paintings conveyed an almost magical, tranquil atmosphere.
Location: The painting was auctioned at Christie’s in 2022 and has since been in the possession of a private collector.

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