Post-Impressionism Art Movement: History, Artwork, Artists

post-impressionism art movementPost-Impressionism is a predominantly French art movement, that arose as a reaction to Impressionism and scientific approach on the naturalistic depiction of light and color. It is an art movement characterized by vivid styles and colors, thick paint applications, clear brush strokes, and more symbolic content. Other notable characteristics in their creation are stress geometric and natural forms for expressive effect, and use artificial or random colors.

English artist and art critic, Roger Fry coined the term Post Impressionism in 1910 to describe the work of late 19th-century painters such as Paul Cezanne, Georges Seurat, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, among others. It was when he organized the 1910 exhibition for Manet and the Post Impressionists . All of these Post Impressionist artists, except van Gogh, were French. Each abandoned the style to create his own distinctive styles.

The most famous Post-Impressionist paintings include: The Starry Night, The Card Players, and A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.

History of Post Impressionism

Beginning of Post Impressionism – 1886

Younger artists and critics urged a change in the representational arts’ emphasis by the time of the last Impressionist exhibition in 1886. They believed the Impressionists neglected the significance of the subject matter because they were preoccupied with technique and the effects of natural light. These rebellious painters eventually adopted the moniker “Post-Impressionists,” which was used to describe a broad range of distinct aesthetic approaches. Many of the movement’s leading figures disagreed on methodology and strategy.

Although Post-Impressionism originated in Paris, the emphasis on symbolic and emotive content meant that city life was no longer the primary subject for painters. Many painters then created their aesthetic style away from Paris. Van Gogh developed his mature style in Arles, in the south of France, Cézanne spent most of his career in Provence, and Gauguin, in an infamous abandonment of Paris, moved to Tahiti.

Paul Cezanne artistic style introduced one of the four primary trends in the movement, now known as Post-Impressionism. Other Post-Impressionist pioneers like Signac, Gauguin, and van Gogh—all painted and resided in the South of France—used his migration to the countryside as a model.

Rise and Development of Post Impressionism – 1886-1900

Contrary to the Impressionists, who started as a close-knit social group, the Post-Impressionists painted primarily by themselves, though they frequently showed together. Paul Gauguin, who moved to Tahiti in 1891, and Vincent van Gogh, who painted in the countryside outside Arles, both experienced similar levels of loneliness when creating their works. Cézanne made in solitary in the southern French town of Aix-en-Provence. Gauguin and van Gogh both preferred a more individualized, spiritual expression above the detached objectivity of Impressionism. Gauguin, in particular, used exotic and sensual color harmonies to create poetic images of the Tahitians among whom he would eventually live.

When Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh arrived in Paris in 1886, he rapidly adopted Impressionist methods. To express his emotionally charged and ecstatic reactions to the natural scene, he converted the contrasted, brief brushstrokes of Impressionism into curving.

End of Post Impressionism Art Movement – 1905

The predominantly French art movement that developed roughly between 1886 and 1905. Fauvism, Expressionism Neo Impressionism Surrealism, and Cubism were already the dominant avant-garde movements in Europe by 1910. The symbolic and organizational principles promoted by the many Post-Impressionist styles were the foundation for each new development in these significant movements.

The Post-Impressionists profoundly influenced generations of artists, including the Nabis, particularly Pierre Bonnard and Édouard Vuillard, the German Expressionists, the Fauves, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque (1882–1963), and American modernists like Marsden Hartley and John Marin, through their radically independent styles and commitment to pursuing only means of artistic expression.

Characteristics of Post Impressionism

Emotional Symbolism

Post-Impressionists held that a work of art shouldn’t be centered on a particular style, method, or aesthetic considerations. Instead, it should emphasize symbolism, conveying ideas from the artist’s subconscious. Post-Impressionists saw subject matter as a means to express sentiments rather than as a visual tool or means to an aim.

Evocative Color

 Paul Gauguin, “The Vision After the Sermon (Jacob Wrestling with an Angel),” 1888
Paul Gauguin, “The Vision After the Sermon (Jacob Wrestling with an Angel),” 1888

The Post-Impressionists deliberately used an artificial color palette to convey their emotionally-driven interpretations of the world around them, in contrast to the Impressionists. They tried to capture the impact of natural light on tone. Most Post-Impressionist paintings include saturated hues, colorful shadows, and broad ranges of color, demonstrating the painters’ inventive and original approach to representation.

Distinctive Brushstrokes

Most Post-Impressionist works have recognizable, broad brushstrokes, just like Impressionist works. These marks not only highlight the artistic elements of the piece, indicating that it is not meant to be a realistic representation of its topic, but they also give it texture and depth.

 Vincent van Gogh, “Undergrowth with Two Figures,” 1890
Vincent van Gogh, “Undergrowth with Two Figures,” 1890

Post Impressionism Artists

Post Impressionists included: Paul Cezanne, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Georges Seurat and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

Paul Cézanne

Paul Cezanne

  • Born : January 19, 1839; Aix-en-Provence, France
  • Died : October 22, 1906; Aix-en-Provence, France
  • Nationality: French

Paul Cezanne was the most famous French artist of the Post-Impressionist movement and history of western art. He was well-liked at the end of his life for advocating that painting remains in touch with its tangible, even sculptural origins. The development of twentieth-century modernism is credited him as he is also referred to as the “Master of Aix,” after his ancestral birthplace in the South of France. It is true both in terms of its visual and intellectual expression.

In contrast to traditional painting techniques, Paul Cézanne used a sequence of deliberate, systematic brushstrokes to apply his pigments to the canvas. Some of his major artworks include: Still Life with Apples and a Pot of Primroses, Road at the Mont Sainte-Victoire and The Card Players.


Paul Gauguin

Paul Cezanne

  • Born: June 7, 1848 – Paris, France
  • Died: May 8, 1903 – Atuona, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia
  • Nationality: French

Paul Gauguin is one of the most famous French artists who was first trained in Impressionism but later broke away to develop a new painting style with broad emphasis on more abstract qualities often known as Symbolism. This background helped him create a new type of “synthetic” painting that serves as a symbolic reflection of reality rather than just a factual or mirror-like reflection.

Paul Gauguin liked to combine flat planes of color with sharply defined lines in his artwork, and he wanted to connect dreams with the surrounding world in his pieces. His major artworks include: The Vision after the Sermon (Jacob wrestling with the Angel), Self Portrait with Halo and Snake and Woman with a Flower.

Vincent van Gogh

Vincent Van Gogh Self Portrait

  • Born: March 30, 1853 – Groot-Zundert, The Netherlands
  • Died: July 29, 1890; Auvers-sur-Oise, France
  • Nationality: Dutch.

The famously tortured artist Vincent Van Gogh was determined for personal expression in his art. He is currently among the most well-known artists of all time, even though he only sold one picture during his lifetime. Van Gogh’s works with heavily loaded, noticeable brushstrokes painted in more vivid styles with his ability to bring his unique emotion to life in paint. His famous artworks include: The Starry Night, Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear, and Red Vineyards at Arles.

Georges Seurat

Georges Seurat

  • Born: December 2, 1859 – Paris, France
  • Died: March 29, 1891 – Paris, France
  • Nationality: French

George Seurat established a scientific foundation for impressionist painting of light and color (neo-Impressionism, divisionism). Pointillism was characterized by a surface covered in tiny dots or strokes of color that gently flickers.

Later, Georges Seurat’s fascination with Gothic art and popular posters increased. These influences can be seen in his work, which is some of the first contemporary art to draw inspiration from such outlandish sources. However, his ideas would have a profound impact on art, influencing the work of painters like Vincent Van Gogh and the Italian Futurists. Paintings like Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte (1884), Study for ‘The Circus’ and Young Woman Powdering Herself have become well-known icons.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec


  • Born: November 24, 1864; Albi, Tarn, France
  • Died: September 9, 1901; Château Malromé, France
  • Nationality: French

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, an aristocrat, dwarf, and party animal, created the Earthquake drink (half absinthe, half cognac). His favorite activities included dressing up and frequenting Parisian brothels where he was a V.I.P. His painting technique captures the whirlwind of action, the mingling of classes and cultures, and the lows and highs of urban life in 19th-century Paris. His major artworks include: At the Moulin Range, The Sleeping Gypsy; Gabrielle The Dancer and La Goulue Arriving at the Moulin Rouge with Two Women.

Post-Impressionism Artwork

The major art works of the Post Impressionism art movement include: The The Starry Night, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, Van Gogh self-portrait (1889), and Café Terrace at Night.

The Starry Night

The Starry Night

  • Artist: Vincent van Gogh
  • Year: 1889
  • Medium Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: 73.7 cm × 92.1 cm (29.01 in × 36.26 in)
  • Location: Museum of Modern Art, New York City

Many people associate Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night with his unstable mental condition due to its wavy, curved lines of the hills, mountains, and sky, its vividly contrasting blues and yellows, its huge, flame-like cypress trees, and its heavily layered brushstrokes. In contrast to the artist’s preferred subjects, such as irises, sunflowers, or wheat fields, night landscapes are uncommon, making Van Gogh’s canvas an exceptional work of art both in terms of its quality and within the artist’s body of work.

View Starry Night on Artchive’s Gallery.

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte - Seurat, Georges - 1884-86 - 3

  • Artist: Georges Seurat
  • Year: 1884–1886
  • Medium: Oil Painting
  • Dimensions: 2.08 m x 3.08 m

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte features a careful composition and a focus on straightforward outward appearance. Seurat spent two years working on La Grande Jatte while also perfecting the pointillist technique, which involved dotting colors in a way that would blend when viewed from a distance.

Forty figures, mostly in full face or profile, cram the canvas. In distant proximity, they seem motionless and frozen. Numerous individuals have been recognized as well-known Parisian stereotypes. For instance, the woman in the right foreground with the eye-catching bustle is denoted as having lax morals by her pet monkey, a symbol of lust. A stylish boulevard walker is the seated man in the top hat on the left. There are some confusing scale changes, but the transition from a dark foreground to a bright background creates a powerful sense of depth, which the estimates’ recession.

View A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte on Artchive’s Gallery.

Van Gogh self-portrait

Vincent Van Gogh Self Portrait

  • Artist: Vincent van Gogh
  • Year: September 1889
  • Medium: Oil Painting
  • Dimensions: 65 cm x 54 cm
  • Location: Musée d’Orsay (since 1986)

This spinning, the chaotic background is one of its most immediately striking features. The wavy lines of the background are repeated in the wavy lines of Van Gogh’s coat and in the quick, forceful brushstrokes that cover his face, giving it a kind of shimmering energy.

Van Gogh expressed his artist’s feelings, where his gaunt visage exhibits a closed-off expression and his eyes have a determined yet weary glare. The undulating lines are visible in the background of the picture plane and contrast dramatically with the problematic aspect of his face.

View Van Gogh’s Self Portrait (1889) on Artchive’s Gallery.

Café Terrace at Night

Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum - VAN GOGH, Vincent - 1888 - 2

  • Artist: Vincent van Gogh
  • Year: 1888
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: 80.7 cm × 65.3 cm (31.8 in × 25.7 in)
  • Location: Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo

Vincent Van Gogh created a dazzling surface that pulses with an inner light by using clashing hues and tones, nearly defying the sky’s waning light. To create the illusion that the observer is strolling through the cobblestone streets, the composition’s lines all point to the center of the piece.  Van Gogh replicated the scene directly from his observations while painting on the street at night, a technique he learned from the Impressionists. But unlike the Impressionists, he added a spiritual and psychological undertone to the image that reflected his unique and personal response rather than simply capturing the world as his eye saw it.

View Cafe Terrace at Night on Artchive’s Gallery.

Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?

It is a story told in three phases from right to left with each phase correlating to a question in the title. On the far right, you can see the first stage of life, childhood; the second stage, adolescence; and the final stage, which is the coming end of life. Contrary to Gauguin’s earlier attempts, this enormous work, which draws inspiration from a long Western tradition of “stage-of-life” painting, is more intimate and obliquely spiritual than blatantly religious.

Post-Impressionism vs. Impressionism

While Post-impressionism (1886-1905) was an offshoot of Impressionism (1860-1886), impressionism was a painting movement that focused on pure colors and painted realistic scenes of everyday objects. While impressionism utilized small, thin brushstrokes to give the painting softer edges, post impressionism emphasize geometric forms and basic shapes to describe its subjects

What Art Movements Were Influenced by Post-Impressionism?

Post-Impressionism influenced other major movements, which included: Neo-Impressionism, Cubism, Expressionism, Art Nouveau, and Fauvism. Cubism and Fauvism, which sought to evoke emotion through line and color. The period’s significance is primarily attributed to the innovative work of a few select painters.


More Post-Impressionism Artwork on Artchive

Artwork Name Artist Name Year Medium
Piet Mondrian Evening landscape 1903
Piet Mondrian On the Lappenbrink 1899 gouache
Piet Mondrian Passionflower 1908 ink,watercolor,paper
Piet Mondrian Self Portrait 1918 oil,canvas
Piet Mondrian Small farm on Nistelrode 1904 gouache,watercolor,paper
Piet Mondrian Triangulated Farmhouse Facade with Polder in Blue c.1900 gouache,watercolor,paper
Piet Mondrian View of Winterswijk 1898 - 1899 watercolor
Piet Mondrian Village Church 1898 charcoal,gouache,pastel,pencil,watercolor,paper
Piet Mondrian Woods near Oele 1908 oil,canvas
Piet Mondrian Wood with Beech Trees 1899 gouache,watercolor,paper
Piet Mondrian At Work / On the Land 1898 gouache
Georges Seurat The Black Horse 1883; France oil,wood
Henri Matisse Conversation under the Olive Trees 1921
Henri Matisse Head of Lorette 1916 - 1917
Henri Matisse Head of Lorette with Curls 1917
Henri Matisse The Transparent Blouse 1919
Henri Matisse Nude 1920
Henri Matisse Peaches 1920 oil,canvas
Henri Matisse Self Portrait 1918 oil,canvas
Henri Matisse The Plaster Torso 1919 oil,canvas
Henri Matisse The Pont Saint-Michel 1900 oil,canvas
Henri Matisse Woman Before a Fish Bowl 1922
Henri Matisse Morning Tea 1920
Henri Matisse Woman holding umbrella 1919
Henri Matisse Woman in a Hat c.1920 oil,canvas
Paul Gauguin Bonjour, Monsieur Gauguin 1889; France oil,canvas
Paul Gauguin Bordeaux Harbour 1886; France oil,canvas
Paul Gauguin Bouquet of flowers 1894 - 1897 watercolor,paper
Paul Gauguin Bouquet of Flowers with a Window Open to the Sea (Reverse of Hay-Making in Brittany) 1888; France oil,canvas
Paul Gauguin Hina, Moon Goddess and Te Fatu, Earth Spirit 1893; French Polynesia oil,canvas
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