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Postimpressionism was a movement in late-19th-century French painting that emphasized the artist's personal response to a subject. Postimpressionism takes its name from an art movement that immediately preceded it: Impressionism. But whereas impressionist painters concentrated on the depiction of a subject's immediate appearance, postimpressionists focused on emotional or spiritual meanings that the subject might convey. Although impressionist artists interpreted what they saw, their approach nevertheless remained rooted in observation of the natural world. Postimpressionists conveyed their personal responses to the world around them through the use of strong, unnatural colors and exaggeration or slight distortion of forms.
Postimpressionism can be said to have begun in 1886, the year that French painter Georges Seurat exhibited Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884-1886), and to have ended in 1906, the year French painter Paul Cezanne died. British art critic Roger Fry, however, coined the term postimpressionism, in 1910 when he organized an exhibition of French paintings at the Grafton Galleries in London. Fry is said to have been dissuaded from using the word expressionist to describe the work of Cezanne, Seurat, Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse, Vincent van Gogh, and others, and to have finally declared: "Oh, let's just call them post-impressionists; at any rate, they came after the impressionists." The term was firmly established when Fry held a second show of postimpressionist art at the Grafton Galleries in 1912.
The painters most closely associated with postimpressionism all took part in Fry's first exhibition: Cezanne, Seurat, Gauguin, Matisse, and van Gogh. Although their styles differed greatly from one another, these artists shared an ability to communicate concepts, emotions, or personal sensation through their art.
Unlike other postimpressionists, Paul Cezanne did not create symbolic equivalents between elements of his paintings and particular emotions or concepts. Instead, Cezanne, who began his career as an impressionist, felt that he could communicate the intensity of his personal sensation through his painted observations of nature. He repeatedly turned to traditional artistic subjects, such as landscapes, still lifes, and nude bathers. However, his rendition of these subjects was far from conventional. The first of Cezanne's three Large Bathers paintings (1894-1905) reveal the artist's typical distortions of shape and color. The unnaturally blocky forms of the bathers' bodies conform to the angularity of the trees that frame them. To unify different parts of the composition, he used shades of green, brown, and blue interchangeably in the depiction of sky, earth, flesh, and foliage. The unfinished quality of Cezanne's paintings and his choppy, unblended brushstrokes convey the immedi!
acy of his personal experience. His technique appealed strongly to other postimpressionists seeking ways to evoke emotional responses in viewers.
Seurat and van Gogh also drew their subjects from the world around them; Seurat concentrated primarily on the urban life of Paris, while van Gogh focused on rural scenes. The symbolist movement, a literary movement that stressed the expression of the artist's inner vision as the purpose of art, influenced both artists, along with Van Gogh's friend Paul Gauguin.
While in Paris in 1886, Vincent van Gogh experimented briefly with neoimpressionism, but found its techniques too restrictive. Instead, he used broader brush strokes and incorporated large zones of single colors into his compositions. A former preacher, van Gogh gave his paintings a spiritual charge through technique, subject matter, and color. The thick, energetic brushstrokes in Crows in the Wheatfields (1890), which he painted just two and a half weeks before his suicide, suggest turbulence. Dark birds hover in a brilliant blue sky over golden fields. The infusion of black darkens the blue of the sky and evokes a mood of pessimism that seems to reflect the artist's self-doubt and loneliness, which he described in letters to his brother.
Although the public initially derided exhibitions of postimpressionist paintings, postimpressionism had a major impact on later art. Soon after originating in France, postimpressionism attracted followers elsewhere in Europe, including James Ensor in Belgium and Edvard Munch in Norway. German expressionist painters, especially members of a group called Die Brucke, drew strongly on postimpressionism in their use of unnatural colors and distorted forms to convey emotion. Cezanne's blocky figures and his use of color to build and unify a composition inspired Spanish artist Pablo Picasso and French artist Georges Braque in their development of cubism.
Postimpressionism's most significant legacy is a change in attitude toward art making. By placing more value
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a contemporary, 1885 van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Georges Seurat, Henri Matisse, Emile Zola, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Roger Fry, a strong influence, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, André Derain, Kees van Dongen, Maurice de Vlaminck, Emil Nolde, James Ensor, Monet, Othon Friesz,
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Paris, Europe, France, Belgium, Arles, London,
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van gogh, Cezanne, artists, Paul Cezanne, vincent van gogh, Gauguin, paintings, expressionism, Matisse, color, fauvism, Paris, cubism, art critic, Paul Gauguin, postimpressionism, Die Brucke, painters, art movements, modern art, Seurat, Henri Matisse, art form, impressionists, Georges Braque, postimpressionists, French painter, Salon d Automne, Georges Seurat, primitive art, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Emile Zola, picture, 20th century art, french paintings, fauvist, kees van dongen, Andre Derain, Pablo Picasso, expressionists, Edvard Munch, advanced art, maurice de vlaminck, Western art, German art, Emil Nolde, objective reality, art world, James Ensor, European art,