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Breaking free of the naturalism of Impressionism in the late 1880s, a group of young painters sought

independent artistic styles for expressing emotions rather than simply optical impressions, concentrating on
themes of deeper symbolism. Through the use of simplified colors and definitive forms, their art was
characterized by a renewed aesthetic sense as well as abstract tendencies. Among the nascent generation of
artists responding to Impressionism, Paul Gauguin (18481903), Georges Seurat (18591891), Vincent van
Gogh (18531890), and the eldest of the group, Paul Czanne (18391906), followed diverse stylistic paths in
search of authentic intellectual and artistic achievements. These artists, often working independently, are today
called Post-Impressionists. Although they did not view themselves as part of a collective movement at the time,
Roger Fry (18661934), critic and artist, broadly categorized them as "Post-Impressionists," a term that he
coined in his seminal exhibition Manet and the Post-Impressionists installed at the Grafton Galleries in London in
Through their radically independent styles and dedication to pursuing unique means of artistic expression, the PostImpressionists dramatically influenced generations of artists.
In the 1880s, Georges Seurat was at the forefront of the challenges to Impressionism with his unique analyses
based on then-current notions of optical and color theories. Seurat believed that by placing tiny dabs of pure
colors adjacent to one another, a viewer's eye compensated for the visual disparity between the two by "mixing"
the primaries to model a composite hue. The Study for "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte" (51.112.6) embodies
Seurat's experimental style, which was dubbed Neo-Impressionism. This painting, the last sketch for the final
picture that debuted in 1886 at the eighth and final Impressionist exhibition (today in the Art Institute of Chicago),
depicts a landscape scene peopled with figures at leisure, a familiar subject of the Impressionists. But Seurat's
updated style invigorates the otherwise conventional subject with a virtuoso application of color and pigment.
In Circus Sideshow(61.101.17), he uses this technique to paint a rare nighttime scene illuminated by artificial
light. The young circle of Neo-Impressionists around Seurat included Paul Signac (18631935), Maximilien Luce
(18581941), and Henri-Edmond Cross (Henri-Edmond Delacroix) (18561910).
The art of Paul Gauguin developed out of similar Impressionist foundations, but he too dispensed with
Impressionistic handling of pigment and imagery in exchange for an approach characterized by solid patches of
color and clearly defined forms, which he used to depict exotic themes and images of private and religious
symbolism. Gauguin's peripatetic disposition took him to Brittany, Provence, Martinique, and Panama, finally
settling him in remote Polynesia, at firstTahiti then the Marquesas Islands. Hoping to escape the aggravations of
the industrialized European world and constantly searching for an untouched land of simplicity and beauty,
Gauguin looked toward remote destinations where he could live easily and paint the purity of the country and its
inhabitants. In Tahiti, he made some of the most insightful and expressive pictures of his career. Ia Orana Maria
(Hail Mary) (51.112.2) resonates with striking imagery and Polynesian iconography, used unconventionally with
several well-known Christian themes, including the Adoration of the Magi and the Annunciation. He described
this picture in a letter to a dealer friend in Paris: "An angel with yellow wings points out Mary and Jesus, both
Tahitians, to two Tahitian women, nudes wrapped in pareus, a sort of cotton cloth printed with flowers that can be
draped as one likes from the waist" (letter to Daniel de Monfreid, March 11, 1892).
In Two Tahitian Women (49.58.1) and Still Life with Teapot and Fruit (1997.391.2), Gauguin employs simplified
colors and solid forms as he builds flat objects that lack traditional notions of perspective, particularly apparent in
the still-life arrangement atop a white tablecloth pushed directly into the foreground of the picture plane.
Striving toward comparable emotional intensities as Gauguin, and even working briefly with him in Arles in the
south of France in 1888, Vincent van Gogh searched with equal determination to create personal expression in
his art. Van Gogh's early pictures are coarsely rendered images of Dutch peasant life depicted with rugged
brushstrokes and dark, earthy tones. Peasant Woman Cooking by a Fireplace (1984.393) shows his fascination
with the working class, portrayed here in a crude style of thickly applied dark pigments. Similarly, the Road in
Etten (1975.1.774) takes the theme outdoors, with laborers working in the Dutch landscape. Self-Portrait with a
Straw Hat (67.187.70a) is reminiscent of the rapidly applied divisionist strokes of the Neo-Impressionists,
particularly Signac, with whom Van Gogh became friends in Paris, while the image on its reverse, The Potato
Peeler (67.187.70b), recalls his dark style of the early 1880s. This unique object encapsulates the artist's stylistic
Working in Arles, Van Gogh completed a series of paintings that exemplify the artistic independence and protoExpressionist technique that he developed by the late 1880s, which would later strongly influence Henri
Matisse(18691954) and his circle of Fauvist painters, as well as the German

Expressionists. L'Arlsienne (51.112.3) and La Berceuse (1996.435) feature Van Gogh's style of rapidly applied,
thick, bright colors with dark, definitive outlines. After his voluntary commitment to an asylum in Saint-Rmy in
1889, he painted several pictures with extraordinarily poignant undertones, agitated lines, brilliant colors, and
distorted perspective, which include, among others, A Corridor in the Asylum (48.190.2). Paying homage to
Jean-Franois Millet, whom Van Gogh had long admired as evident in his very early pictures of peasants, he
celebrates the Barbizon artist's legacy with First Steps, after Millet(64.165.2).
Through their radically independent styles and dedication to pursuing unique means of artistic expression, the
Post-Impressionists dramatically influenced generations of artists, including the Nabis, especially Pierre Bonnard
(18671947) and douard Vuillard (18681940), the German Expressionists, the Fauvists, Pablo Picasso,
Georges Braque (18821963), and American modernists such as Marsden Hartley (18771943) and John Marin
Artists by Movement:
France, 1880's to 1900
Post-Impressionism is an umbrella term that encompasses a variety of artists who were influenced
by Impressionism but took their art in other directions.
There is no single well-defined style of Post-Impressionism, but in general it is less idyllic and more emotionally
charged than Impressionist work.
The classic Post-Impressionists are Paul Gauguin, Paul Cezanne, Vincent van Gogh, Henri Rousseau and Henri de
Toulouse-Lautrec. The Pointillistsand Les Nabis are also generally included among the Post-Impressionists.
Paul Czanne (French, 1839-1906). Peasant in a Blue Smock, 1892 or 1897. Oil on canvas. 31 7/8 x 25 9/16 in. (81 x
64.9 cm). Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas
The term "Post-Impressionism" was invented by Roger Fry as he prepared for an exhibition at Grafton Gallery in
London in 1910. The show was called "Manet and the Post-Impressionists" (November 8, 1910-January 15, 1911), a
canny marketing ploy to pair a brand name (douard Manet) with younger French artists whose work was not well
known on the other side of the English Channel.
The exhibition included the painters Vincent van Gogh, Paul Czanne, Paul Gauguin, George Seurat, Andr Derain,
Maurice de Vlaminck and Othon Friesz, plus the sculptor Aristide Maillol. Robert Rosenblum explained: "PostImpressionists ... felt the need to construct private pictorial worlds upon the foundations of Impressionism."
Post-Impressionists pushed the ideas of the Impressionists into new directions. The word "Post-Impressionism"
indicates their link to the original Impressionist ideas and their departure from those ideas -- their modernist journey
from the past into the future.
How Long Was Post-Impressionism a Movement?
Mid-1880s to early 1900s (including the Fauves as a Post-Impressionist Movement)
What Are the Key Characteristics of Post-Impressionism?
The Post-Impressionists were an eclectic bunch of individuals, so there were no broad, unifying characteristics. Each
artist took an aspect of Impressionism and exaggerated it.

For example, Vincent van Gogh intensified Impressionism's already vibrant colors and painted them thickly on the
canvas (we call this impasto). Van Gogh's energetic brushstrokes expressed emotional qualities. Therefore, we see
him as an off-shoot of Impressionism and a proponent of Expressionism (art loaded with charged emotional content).
In other examples, Georges Seurat took the rapid, "broken" brushwork of Impressionism and developed it into the
millions of colored dots that create Pointillism, while Paul Czanne elevated Impressionism's separation of colors into
separations of whole planes of color.
Best-Known Artists:

Vincent van Gogh - Expressionism

Paul Czanne - Constructive Pictorialism

Paul Gauguin - Symbolist, Cloisonnism, Pont-Aven

Georges Seurat - Pointillism (a.k.a. Divisionism or Neoimpressionism)

Aristide Maillol - The Nabis

douard Vuillard and Pierre Bonnard - Intimist

Andr Derain, Maurice de Vlaminck and Othon Friesz - Fauvism

What is Post-Impressionism?
Neo-Impressionism (Georges Seurat)
In fine art, the term Post-Impressionism denotes the phase of modern artduring which artists sought to
progress beyond the narrow imitative style ofImpressionism, as practised by Claude Monet and his followers.
his disciple
the founder
of NeoThe phase
from 1880 to
the late
longer outside
the name given
to the Divisionist
(also called pointillism)
which aimedArt
to establish
most influential
included technique
early Expressionism,
a scientific
basis for
of colours.
the importance
lies essentially
in the
pioneering art of certain
colour theories of M Chevreul, as elaborated in his 1839 bookDe La Loi du Contraste Simultane des
Couleurs (concerning the law of the simultaneous contrast of colours). See also: Henri-Edmond
Cross (1856-1910).
Although most famous Post-Impressionist painters were based in France, Post Impressionist painting spread
throughout Europe, to include a wide variety of movements, including early Expressionism, as well as Italian
of mixingascolour
the palette and
it to the
well as
Les Vingt,
others. a process believed to reduce
luminosity, Divisionists added tiny dabs of pure colour directly to the canvas, side by side, thus allowing
them to 'mix' in the viewer's eye. Among Seurat's famous Pointillist pictures are Sunday Afternoon on the
The most
of and
the period
of La Grange
at Asnieres
Camille and Lucien
were also
painter, noted
for his of
Nocturnes;Paul Cezanne (1839-1906), one of the most influential
of modern artists, whose formalistic approach to landscape paved the way for Cubism; the late developer Paul
Gauguin (1848-1903), a colourist whose paintings of people and scenes from Tahiti had a huge influence on
For latersymbolism
Dutch 'luminists'
see: Post-Impressionism
as well (Divisionists),
as styles of Cloisonism
and Primitivism;inVan
Gogh (1853-1890) one of the
pioneers of Expressionism, noted for his intensely personal pictures;Georges Seurat (1859-1891), one of the
greatest exponents of drawing, who founded the Neo-Impressionist style of Pointillism, and whose
masterpieceBathers at Asnieres (National Gallery, London) holds up better than most other Post-Impressionist
works; the alcoholic Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), whose lithographic poster art, and scenes of cafes and
nightclubs, helped to create the popular image of Paris at the turn of the century; Henri Matisse (1869-1954)
leader of the Fauves, and Maurice Utrillo (1883-1955), best remembered for his picture postcard views of
Paris streets.

Structure Not Imitation (Paul Cezanne)

Paul Cezanne, considered by some art historians to be the father of modern art for his influence
over Picasso and Cubism, became determined to take a classical approach to plein-air painting as practised by the
Impressionists. His carefully structured landscape compositions and still-lifes were built up in different chunks or
planes at a painstakingly slow speed (the fruit in his still life paintings used to rot while he painted it!), so as to
optimize the effects that each plane brought to the overall composition. This subjugation of natural content to form
and structure, had a huge impact on several important 20th century painters like Pablo Picasso, who developed it
further into their Cubist philosophy of art. Famous works by Cezanne include: The Cardplayers (1892), Montagne
Sainte-Victoire with Trees and a House (1882),Still Life with Basket (1890), The Boy in the Red
Waistcoat (1894), Still Life with Plaster Cupid (1895), and Les Grandes Baigneuses (The Large Bathers) (1900-05).
Cezanne was one of several Post-Impressionists to be supported by the Parisian Ambroise Vollard (1866-1939) and
the wealthy Russian collector Ivan Morozov. For details of a champion of Post-Impressionism who wrote an
important monograph on Cezanne, see: Roger Fry (1866-1934).
Early Expressionism (Vincent Van Gogh)
A key figure in the history of Expressionist painting, the short-lived Dutchman Vincent Van Gogh only painted for the
last ten years of his life, but in total contrast to the snail-like Cezanne, once he started he couldn't stop, painting
nearly 900 pictures at an average of one every four days. Most are autobiographical, inadvertently charting his
emotional decline and ultimate collapse. His painting demonstrates an emotional intensity of colour and
brushstroke, as he attempted to convey his personal feelings of what he saw.
All his life is in his paintings, (especially his self-portraits) from the dark and enclosed coarseness of The Potato
Eaters (1885), to the soaringly optimistic yellows of his Sunflowers series, followed by the gnarled twisted branches
ofThe Olive Pickers (1889), and the threatening black birds in Wheatfield with Crows (1890). Not surprisingly, Van
Gogh became an icon for following generations of expressionist painters whose art purposefully distorted form and
colour in order to express feelings.
Another forerunner of the main Expressionist movement was the art produced in the rural village of Worpswede in
Lower Saxony, near Bremen. During the early 1890s it was colonized by a group of young artists - including Fritz
Mackensen, Otto Modersohn and Hans am Ende. The most famous Worpswede expressionist was Paula
Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907), who is best known for her remarkable expressionist portraits of peasants. Other
Worpswede artists included Carl Vinnen, Fritz Overbeck, and Heinrich Vogeler. For more information about German
art at the end of the nineteenth century, see: Post-Impressionism in Germany (c.1880-1910).

Synthetism/Cloisonnism (Paul Gauguin)

The enigmatic but highly influential French painter, Paul Gauguin developed a simplified non-naturalistic style of painting known as Synthetism - characterized by decorative line, flat patches of bold colour and esotericsymbolism (see also
the cloisonnism of Emile Bernard and Louis Anquetin). The acknowledged leader of the Pont-Aven school, Gauguin was also
a key promoter of primitivism. Sadly, his paintings failed to achieve the popularity he hoped for and he died a pauper in the
South Pacific.
Scandinavian Post-Impressionism
Arguably the three most important figures in Scandinavia during the Post-Impressionist era were the Norwegian
painters Edvard Munch (1863-1944) and P.S. Kroyer (1851-1909), and the Danish artist Vilhelm Hammershoi(1864-1916).
Munch, whose painting The Scream (1895) was sold by Petter Olsen at Sotheby's New York for a record-breaking $119.9
million, was highly influential in Scandinavia and Germany, and is seen - along with Van Gogh - as one of the main original

sources of expressionism. The Norwegian-born, classically trained painter Peder Severin Kroyer is primarily associated with
the Skagen artist colony, a group known as the 'painters of light'. Although inspired by French Impressionism, the group
adopted a more realist style of brushwork. Other Skagen members included Holger Drachmann and Carl Locher. One of
Kroyer's pupils was the Danish painter Vilhelm Hammershoi (1864-1916), best known for his interior genre-painting. Although
suffused with symbolism, his quiet interiors have a mystical, timeless quality about them. Influenced by Jan Vermeer, as well
as the American Post-Impressionist James Whistler.
French Poster Art
If Cubism represented the extreme 'intellectual' response to Impressionism,poster art was its antithesis - the ultimate form
of decorative art, albeit with functional characteristics. The history of poster art properly begins with the technical innovations
of lithographer Jules Cheret (1836-1932), and was influenced by Japonism (notably Ukiyo-e woodblock prints) notably by
artists like Hokusai (1760-1849) and Hiroshige (1797-1858). Other famous poster painters included Edvard Munch, Pierre
Bonnard, the American illustrator Maxfield Parrish, and the Czech graphic artist Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939). Henri de
Toulouse-Lautrec was also outstanding. Posters were given a huge boost during the 1890s with the emergence of Art
Nouveau, (in Germany and Austria, Jugendstil) of which idiom Aubrey Beardsley, the English illustrator, was an
acknowledged master.
Les Nabis (1891-1899)
The late nineteenth century school known as Les Nabis, was a group of Post-Impressionist artists and illustrators based in
Paris, who became highly influential in the area of graphic art. Their focus on design was echoed in the parallel Art Nouveau
movement. Members of Les Nabis included Paul Serusier (1864-1927), noted for The Talisman; Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947),
Ker Xavier Roussel (1867-1944), Felix Vallotton (1865-1925), Maurice Denis (1870-1943) and Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940).

Fauvism (Henri Matisse)

Henri Matisse the leader of Fauvism, succeeded in freeing colour from its traditional uses, and in the process changed how
painters worked, for ever. His contribution to Post-Impressionism cannot be over-estimated. He was the central figure at the
scandalous Fauvist exhibition at the Salon d'Automne in 1905. One of his richest patrons was the Russian textile tycoon and
Post-Impressionist devotee Sergei Shchukin. Other important Fauvist paintersincluded Matisse's friend Andre Derain (18801954), who had studied with him at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts under Moreau, Derain's friend Maurice de Vlaminck (18761958), the Dutch-born painter Kees van Dongen (1877-1968), the expressionist Georges Rouault (1871-1958), Albert
Marquet (1875-1947) who specialized in painting the waterways of Paris, the colourist Raoul Dufy(1877-1953), the Cubist-inwaiting Georges Braque (1882-1963), the Le Havre artist Othon Friesz (1879-1949), the Impressionist style artist HenriCharles Manguin (1874-1949), Charles Camoin (1879-1964) another friend of the colourist Louis Valtat (1869-1952), and
Jean Puy (1876-1960) a participant at the original 1905 Salon d'Automne show.
British Post-Impressionists: The Camden Town Group
Founded in 1911 in London by Walter Sickert (1860-1942), the Camden Town Group (named after Sickert's down-at-heel
home district in North London) specialized in realist scenes of city life executed in a range of Post-Impressionist styles and
held three exhibitions at the Carfax Gallery in 1911 and 1912. Group members included: Robert Bevan (1865-1925), Spencer
Gore (1878-1914), Harold Gilman (1876-1919), and Charles Isaac Ginner (1878-1952). The Camden Town Group emerged
after the (arguably more successful) Glasgow School of Painting (1880-1915), led by James Guthrie and John Lavery, who
pursued a similar style of naturalism to the Hague School in Holland and the "Impressionist" school in Germany. Another
noteworthy loose-knit group of Post-Impressionist painters were the Scottish Colourists, comprising Samuel Peploe, Francis
Cadell, John Fergusson, and Leslie Hunter, who were strongly influenced by Matisse and the Fauves.
The Group of Seven (1920-1960s)

Vuillard was one of the most gifted and innovative contributors to modernFrench painting, best known for his magical 'intimist'
style of pattened flickering colour. His masterpieces include the genre paintings: In the Garden(1894-5) and Women Sewing
Before a Garden (1895). A pioneer of simple design and tonal sympathy. One of the most underrated artists, although his
works are in prestigious collections such as the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, the National Gallery in Washington DC and the
Art Institute of Chicago.

Strongly influenced by Post-Impressionism, the Group of Seven were Canadian landscape artists who created bold, highlycoloured paintings, often infusing their compositions with symbolic meanings. The members of the group included Tom
Thomson, as well as Franklin Carmichael (1890-1945), AJ Casson (1898-1992), Lionel Fitzgerald (1890-1956), Arthur Lismer
(1885-1969), Lawren Harris (1885-1970), Edwin Holgate (1892-1977), AY Jackson (1882-1974), JEH MacDonald (18731932), and FH Varley (1881-1969).

Les Vingt (1883-93)

Les Vingt (The Twenty, or XX) was a Belgian group of progressive painters, sculptors and writers based in Brussels, who
combined - under the influence of the lawyer Octave Maus (1856-1919) - to discuss, create and showcaseavant-garde art,
both Belgian and foreign, and to promote the latest international developments in decorative design. Founder members
includedJames Ensor (1860-1949), Fernand Khnopff (1858-1921), Theo van Rysselberghe (1862-1926), and Alfred Finch
Italian Divisionism (1890-1907)
Inspired by the Pointillism of Georges Seurat, which they absorbed mostly through the pages of French and Belgian journals
such as L'Art Moderne),Italian Divisionism was strongly influenced by the critic, gallerist, and painter Vittore Grubicy De
Dragon (1851-1920), who was the driving force behind the movement, not least because of his progressive articles and
reviews in the Roman newspaper La Riforma. Important exponents of Divisionism in Italy included: Angelo Morbelli (18531919), Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo (1868-1907), Giovanni Segantini (1858-1899), Plinio Nomellini (1866-1943), Emilio
Longoni (1859-1932), Gaetano Previati (1852-1920), and Giovanni Sottocornola (1855-1917).

Post-Impressionist paintings can be seen in all the world's best art museums, notably: the Musee d'Orsay, Paris; the National
Museum of Modern Art, Paris; the Tate Gallery, London; the Hermitage Gallery, St Petersburg; and the Museum of Modern
Art, New York.

Vincent Van Gogh

Born: 1853
Died: 1890
Gender: Male
Nationality: Dutch

I am a man of passions, capable of and subject to doing more or less foolish things, which I happen to repent more
or less afterwards But the problem is to try every means to put those selfsame passions to good use In the
surroundings of pictures and works of art, you know how I had a violent passion for them, reaching the highest pitch
of enthusiasm. Vincent van Gogh.

exchange and painted in his spare time. He collected works by artists such as Manet, Monet and Cezanne which he
studied intently. It was Camille Pissarro who was his greatest influence and in 1883 Gauguin moved to Rouen to be
closer to the man. By this time, with his wife Mette Gad, he had a family based in Copenhagen. As he gave up his job
he could no longer support them financially and effectively abandoned them and everything besides for his art.

Vincent van Gogh was the eldest of six children born to a Dutch pastor. As a child he was very quiet and would rather
be alone than play with his brothers and sisters. At 16, van Goghs father arranged for him to work for his uncle at a
firm of art dealers in the Hague. He approached the job with enthusiasm and in time was transferred to London.
Although from a well-educated family, van Gogh preferred the company of peasants to that of the well-to-do of
London, and he attempted several unsuccessful careers as both schoolmaster and missionary in England and

He went to Brittany in 1886 and produced works such as The Bathers which still owed a great debt to the
Impressionists. However, in Pont-Aven he met Emile Bernard who introduced Gauguin to the concept of cloissonism,
a visual equivalent of symbolist poetry in which only the essence of an object was expressed. This idea led to the
creation of Vision After The Sermon (1888), Gauguins first masterpiece. A year later he was excluded from the
official Universal Exhibition in Paris but managed to hang his and his associates paintings in the Cafe des Arts
entitling themselves, The Impressionist and Synthetist Group. Although not rousing great interest the pictures did
serve to raise his profile somewhat. His paintings contained increasing amounts of religious imagery often featuring
himself in the role of one of the protagonists. He used vivid colours unnaturally, reflecting his interest in primitive art
forms and his desire to recapture some lost paradise from his youth.

In 1880 he became a full-time artist. His first pieces were sombre in tone and depicted his much loved peasants
working on the land. In 1886 he left Holland for Paris where his younger brother Theo was working as an art dealer.
The experience was undoubtedly influential as the works of Bernard, Degas, Gauguin and Seurat soon changed van
Goghs palette. However, the relationship between Theo and his brother became strained and Vincent moved out.
Van Gogh conceived the idea of founding a Studio of the South at Arles as a working community for progressive
artists. Early in 1888 he moved to Arles but the only other artist he eventually persuaded to join him was Gauguin a
man whom he greatly admired. It was after a quarrel with Gauguin that van Gogh was reputed to have cut off part of
his ear. As with much of van Goghs life, his insane behaviour and his final chronicled suicide can all be accounted
for by presently understood health conditions. It is true though that Vincent saw very little success with his work
during his lifetime. This never deterred his belief that one day people all over the world would enjoy his work.
Van Goghs early work, during his Dutch period was heavy and rich but subdued in colour, for example The Potato
Eaters (1885). After his contact with other painters in Paris, with Japanese prints and the work of such original
colourists as Delacroix and Monticelli, van Goghs style changed radically culminating in the brilliant, expressive
colour and frenzied, thick brushmarks of his Arles period. The final two and a half years of his life in Arles saw Vincent
at his most prolific capturing his exuberance and passion for the surrounding countryside. Among hundreds of
paintings from this era are the famous Starry Night (1889), Sunflowers (1888), Cafe at Night(1888) and Cornfield
and Cypress Trees (1889). His watercolours, such as Fishing boats at Santeo Maries and drawings are of equal
intensity, while the letters he wrote to his brother Theo are important literary and human documents in their own right.
Paul Gauguin

By 1891 he was gaining quite a reputation but instead of consolidating this new found success he fled to Tahiti. It was
not the paradise he had been seeking yet he remained for two years and produced almost 80 paintings. Poverty and
illness drove Gauguin back to France but after receiving an inheritance from the death of an uncle he headed back to
Tahiti once more. In 1897 his daughter, Aline dies and falling into a deep depression completes one of his finest
works, Where do we come from? Soon after he makes an attempted suicide then eventually takes up a post as
government draughtsman in Papeete. Three years after his death a huge exhibition of his work took place at the
Salon dAutomne in Paris. It is regarded as one of the most influential exhibitions of the 20thcentury. His richly
coloured, highly evocative work has inspired countless artists.
Paul Cezanne
Born: 1839
Died: 1906
Gender: Male
Nationality: French

Born: 1848
Died: 1903
Gender: Male
Nationality: French

I am a great artist and I know it. It is because I am that I have endured such suffering. Paul Gauguin.
Paul Gauguin was born in the Paris at the height of the 1848 Revolution. His childhood was spent in Lima but in 1865
joined the merchant marines for two years followed by three years with the French Navy. In 1871 he joined the stock

All things, particularly in art, are theory developed and applied in contact with nature. Painting is not only to copy the
object, it is to seize a harmony between numerous relations. Paul Czanne.
Paul Czanne was born in Aix-en-Provence, the son of a wealthy banker. He was a talented student and among his
school friends was Emile Zola who introduced him to Manet and Courbet and persuaded him to move to Paris to
study art. Destined by his father to study law, he was eventually, at the age of 22, allowed to devote himself entirely to
painting. A yearly allowance from his father enabled him to work without distraction for the next 23 years. The 1860s
were to see the beginnings of Impressionism and Czanne met many of the key figures such as Pissarro, Monet and
Renoir. His early work was unaccomplished, however, and it wasnt until 1873 that his skill became apparent in The
House of the Hanged Man, which was exhibited at the First Impressionist Exhibition of 1874.
Czanne exhibited again with the Impressionists in 1877 but refused to identify himself with the movement. Instead
he was searching for a new way to approach the representation of nature. He talked of humanising a landscape
through the exercise of an artists feelings. From 1880 onwards Czanne spent less time in Paris preferring the

landscape of Provence. Upon his fathers death in 1886, Czannes inheritance gave him financial independence. He
continued to concentrate on his favourite themes such as portraits of his wife, Hortense and studies of the Provence
landscape such as Mont Ste Victoire (c.1886-1888) and Aix: Rocky Landscape (c.1887). In 1895 the dealer
Ambroise Vollard mounted Czannes first one-man exhibition and this was to bring the artist out of the shadow of
obscurity and by the end of the century he was referred to as Sage by many of the avant-garde.
Czanne was fascinated with structure and the way painting can tackle nature. His work can summon up a broad
range of sensations for the viewer. Through his use of colour and space Czanne achieved an extraordinary degree
of expressiveness. Since his death his work has been enormously influential, most notably on the Cubist movement.

Key Dates: 1905-1925
A term used to denote the use of distortion and exaggeration for emotional effect, which first surfaced in the art
literature of the early twentieth century. When applied in a stylistic sense, with reference in particular to the use of
intense colour, agitated brushstrokes, and disjointed space. Rather than a single style, it was a climate that affected
not only the fine arts but also dance, cinema, literature and the theatre.
Expressionism is an artistic style in which the artist attempts to depict not objective reality but rather the subjective
emotions and responses that objects and events arouse in him. He accomplishes his aim through distortion,
exaggeration, primitivism, and fantasy and through the vivid, jarring, violent, or dynamic application of formal
elements. In a broader sense Expressionism is one of the main currents of art in the later 19th and the 20th centuries,
and its qualities of highly subjective, personal, spontaneous self-expression are typical of a wide range of modern
artists and art movements.
Unlike Impressionism, its goals were not to reproduce the impression suggested by the surrounding world, but to
strongly impose the artists own sensibility to the worlds representation. The expressionist artist substitutes to the
visual object reality his own image of this object, which he feels as an accurate representation of its real meaning.
The search of harmony and forms is not as important as trying to achieve the highest expression intensity, both from
the aesthetic point of view and according to idea and human critics.
Expressionism assessed itself mostly in Germany, in 1910. As an international movement, expressionism has also
been thought of as inheriting from certain medieval artforms and, more directly, Czanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh and the
fauvism movement.
The most well known German expressionists are Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, Lionel Feininger, George Grosz, Ernst
Ludwig Kirchner, August Macke, Emil Nolde, Max Pechstein; the Austrian Oskar Kokoschka, the Czech Alfred Kubin
and the Norvegian Edvard Munch are also related to this movement. During his stay in Germany, the Russian
Kandinsky was also an expressionism addict.
Representative Artists:
Georges Rouault
Oskar Kokoschka
Egon Schiele
Franz Marc
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

Edvard Munch
Marc Chagall
"Everyone who renders directly and honestly whatever drives him to create is one of us."
Expressionism emerged simultaneously in various cities across Germany as a response to a widespread anxiety
about humanity's increasingly discordant relationship with the world and accompanying lost feelings of authenticity
and spirituality. In part a reaction against Impressionism and academic art, Expressionism was inspired most heavily
by the Symbolist currents in late nineteenth-century art. Vincent van Gogh, Edvard Munch, and James Ensor proved
particularly influential to the Expressionists, encouraging the distortion of form and the deployment of strong colors to
convey a variety of anxieties and yearnings. The classic phase of the Expressionist movement lasted from
approximately 1905 to 1920 and spread throughout Europe. Its example would later inform Abstract Expressionism,
and its influence would be felt throughout the remainder of the century in German art. It was also a critical precursor
to the Neo-Expressionist artists of the 1980s.
The arrival of Expressionism announced new standards in the creation and judgment of art. Art was now meant to
come forth from within the artist, rather than from a depiction of the external visual world, and the standard for
assessing the quality of a work of art became the character of the artist's feelings rather than an analysis of the
Expressionist artists often employed swirling, swaying, and exaggeratedly executed brushstrokes in the depiction of
their subjects. These techniques were meant to convey the turgid emotional state of the artist reacting to the anxieties
of the modern world.
Through their confrontation with the urban world of the early twentieth century, Expressionist artists developed a
powerful mode of social criticism in their serpentine figural renderings and bold colors. Their representations of the
modern city included alienated individuals - a psychological by-product of recent urbanization - as well as prostitutes,
who were used to comment on capitalism's role in the emotional distancing of individuals within cities.
Expressionism Beginnings
With the turn of the century in Europe, shifts in artistic styles and vision erupted as a response to the major changes
in the atmosphere of society. New technologies and massive urbanization efforts altered the individual's worldview,
and artists reflected the psychological impact of these developments by moving away from a realistic representation
of what they saw toward an emotional and psychological rendering of how the world affected them. The roots of
Expressionism can be traced to certain Post-Impressionist artists like Edvard Munch in Norway, as well as Gustav
Klimt in the Vienna Secession, and finally emerged in Germany in 1905.
Edvard Munch in Norway
The late nineteenth-century Norwegian Post-Impressionist painter Edvard Munch emerged as an important source of
inspiration for the Expressionists. His vibrant and emotionally charged works opened up new possibilities for
introspective expression. In particular, Munch's frenetic canvases expressed the anxiety of the individual within the
newly modernized European society; his famous painting The Scream (1893) evidenced the conflict between
spirituality and modernity as a central theme of his work. By 1905 Munch's work was well known within Germany and
he was spending much of his time there as well, putting him in direct contact with the Expressionists.

Gustav Klimt in Austria

Another figure in the late nineteenth century that had an impact upon the development of Expressionism was Gustav
Klimt, who worked in the Austrian Art Nouveau style of the Vienna Secession. Klimt's lavish mode of rendering his
subjects in a bright palette, elaborately patterned surfaces, and elongated bodies was a step toward the exotic colors,
gestural brushwork, and jagged forms of the later Expressionists. Klimt was a mentor to painter Egon Schiele, and
introduced him to the works of Edvard Munch andVincent van Gogh, among others, at an exhibition of their work in
The Advent of Expressionism in Germany
Although it included various artists and styles, Expressionism first emerged in 1905, when a group of four German
architecture students who desired to become painters -Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Fritz Bleyl, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff,
and Erich Heckel - formed the group Die Brcke (the Bridge) in the city of Dresden. A few years later, in 1911, a likeminded group of young artists formed Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) in Munich, after the rejection of Wassily
Kandinsky's painting The Last Judgment (1910) from a local exhibition. In addition to Kandinsky, the group
included Franz Marc, Paul Klee, and August Macke, among others, all of whom made up the loosely associated
The Term "Expressionism"
The term "Expressionism" is thought to have been coined in 1910 by Czech art historian Antonin Matejcek, who
intended it to denote the opposite of Impressionism. Whereas the Impressionists sought to express the majesty of
nature and the human form through paint, the Expressionists, according to Matejcek, sought only to express inner life,
often via the painting of harsh and realistic subject matter. It should be noted, however, that neither Die Brcke, nor
similar sub-movements, ever referred to themselves as Expressionist, and, in the early years of the century, the term
was widely used to apply to a variety of styles, including Post-Impressionism.

Characteristics of Expressionism Art

Expressionism art has existed long before the term was applied to art in the early 20th century. Nonetheless,
Expressionism generally refers to a series of art movements that share a common interest in depicting emotions and
emphasizing subjectivity, frequently through the use of vivid coloration and dynamic or distorted forms in paintings.
Each movement pushed the art form in a slightly different direction but, on the whole, they all share these
Emotions And Feelings: Expressionism's defining characteristic is its attempt to describe emotions and feelings
visually. This might be through a portrait that exaggerates certain features of a face to make it seem more expressive,
or it could be through vibrant and contrasting colors in a room to create an overall mood. In contrast, nonExpressionist art would avoid distorting shapes, colors and lines so that it could display physical reality more
Subjectivity: Some non-Expressionist art relies on color and shape distortion to create an enhanced sense of reality;
the art of the New Objectivist painter is a prime example. However, their work is still intent on displaying the external
or "objective" world as clearly as possible. Expressionistic art, on the other hand, tends to display an artist's internal,
subjective experience to the world, whether it is a depiction of a dream, an improvised abstraction, or a highly stylized
painting of a street scene that the artist has imbued with his own interpretation.

Vivid Coloration: In contrast to the Impressionists, who saw color as a reflection of light-and thus a representation of
the physical world-Expressionists view color as an emotional device. Expressionistic paintings tend to employ vivid
colors to elicit emotional reactions from the viewer or to relay the deep emotional state of the artist.
Dynamic And Distorted Forms: Most Expressionistic paintings, when depicting images of recognizable objects like
humans or horses, render them in exaggerated forms, frequently with a sense of movement through blurred edges or
curving brushstrokes. Even abstract paintings employ this kind of dynamism, showing a fluidity of line and movement
throughout the painting.
Characteristics of Movements Within Expressionism: Each movement within Expressionism has had its own
distinct style. Art of the Fauves (Wild Beasts), including that of Matisse, was intensely colored with distorted shapes
balanced into compelling compositions, but they remained fairly representational. German Expressionism continued
this highly stylized approach but delved strongly into abstraction and improvisational compositions, particularly in the
work of Wassily Kandinsky. Abstract Expressionism expanded the canvas and employed an "all over" approach to
creating large-scale, highly abstract paintings.
Expressionism is a term that embraces an early 20th century style of art, music and literature that is charged with an
emotional and spiritual vision of the world.
Expressionism is associated with Northern Europe in general and Germany in particular. The Expressionist spirit has
always existed in the German psyche. Its embryonic forms can be recognized in the physical and spiritual suffering
depicted in Grnewald's Crucifixion , in the tortured vision of Martin Schongauers engraving of the 'Temptation of
Saint Anthony' .
At the end of the 19th century, this Expressionist spirit resurfaced in the paintings of two awkward and isolated
personalities one was the Dutchman, Vincent Van Gogh and the other a Norwegian, Edvard Munch. While the
Impressionists were admiring the colour and beauty of the natural landscape, Van Gogh and Munch took a radically
different perspective. They chose to look inwards to discover a form of self-expression that offered them an individual
voice in a world that they perceived as both insecure and hostile. It was this more subjective search for a personal
emotional truth that drove them on and ultimately paved the way for the Expressionist art forms of the 20th century
that explored the inner landscape of the soul.
Paintings like Van Goghs Sunflowers (1888) opened our eyes to the intensity of expressive color. He used color to
express his feelings about a subject, rather than to simply describe it. In a letter to his brother Theo he
explained, Instead of trying to reproduce exactly what I see before my eyes, I use color more arbitrarily to express
myself forcibly. His heightened vision helped to liberated color as an emotional instrument in the repertoire of 20th
century art and the vitality of his brushwork became a key influence in the development of both the Fauves' and the
Expressionists painting technique.
Munchs painting of The Scream (1893) was equally influential. It provides us with a psychological blueprint for
Expressionist art: distorted shapes and exaggerated colors that amplify a sense of anxiety and alienation. The
Scream is Munchs own voice crying in the wilderness, a prophetic voice that declares the Expressionist message,
fifteen years before the term was invented. "I was walking along the road with two friends. The sun set. I felt a tinge of
melancholy. Suddenly the sky became a bloody red. I stopped, leaned against the railing, dead tired. And I looked at
the flaming clouds that hung like blood and a sword over the blue-black fjord and city. My friends walked on. I stood
there, trembling with fright. And I felt a loud, unending scream piercing nature."


Die Brcke was founded in Dresden in 1905 by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938) , Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (18841976), Erich Heckel (1883-1970) and Fritz Bleyl (1880-1966). The meaning of the name suggested they would build
Die Brcke (the bridge) from the great German artistic past of Drer and Grunewald over the contemporary artistic
bourgeoisie to a new and better future. They even wrote a manifesto which Kirchner carved in wood
proclaiming, 'Putting our faith in a new generation of creators and art lovers, we call upon all youth to unite. And being
youth, the bearers of the future, we want to wrest from the comfortably established older generation freedom to live
and move. Anyone who directly and honestly reproduces that force which impels him to create belongs to us.'
The members of Die Brcke adopted a bohemian lifestyle and lived as an artistic community in a working class district
of Dresden, deliberately isolating themselves from the 'comfortably established'. They believed that artists should
have total freedom of expression, unrestricted by social or artistic conventions.
Like many artistic movements they looked back to move forward. Gothic art, which had both a German lineage and
an appropriately dark temperament, became Die Brcke 's natural inspiration. Its jagged forms were easily fused with
the primal visual vocabulary of the African and Oceanic art that they had discovered in the Ethnographic Museum in
The main artistic form that emerged from this fusion of styles was the woodcut. The woodcut had been a traditional
German print medium for narrative illustration. When fused with the vocabulary of 'primitive' art, the medium became
a powerful tool for personal expression. A modern alterative to this traditional technique was the linocut, a medium
invented by Die Brcke.
The Die Brcke manifesto was an open invitation to other artists with similar values to join the group. Emil Nolde,
whose painting was following a similar path to Die Brcke, joined in 1906. However, Nolde only remained a member
for a few months as the community lifestyle did not live up to his expectations. He was older and had a more
conservative nature than the young Die Brcke activists.
Nolde's favourite subjects were dark brooding seascapes that recalled the landscape of his youth and biblical themes
that reflected his strict religious upbringing. He was fascinated by the expressive intensity of the Isenheim Altarpiece
and created his own version: a nine section polyptych of the life of Christ. The central Crucifixion panel above,
obviously based on Grnewald's masterpiece, is a classic piece Expressionist painting - a stylistic fusion of primitive
drawing with the exaggerated color of the Fauves, held together by a German Gothic composition.
Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) was not exactly an Expressionist group, more a meeting of diverse talents who
contributed to the publication of an almanac 'Der Blaue Reiter' and two exhibitions of the same name.
Der Blaue Reiter (the almanac) was published in May 1912 by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc. The title was
taken from a drawing of a blue horseman that was used for the cover of the almanac. Kandinsky stated, 'We both
loved blue: Marc - horses, myself - riders. So the name invented itself.'
While Die Brcke artists adopted 'primitive' art as a raw style that would subvert the traditions of the establishment,
Der Blaue Reiter artists were attracted by the more mystical aspects of the style, particularly its relationship with the
spiritual and supernatural. Primitive art had a certain purity that set it apart from the materialism and corruption of the
time - 'a bridge into the world of the spirit' as Marc put it.

Der Blaue Reiter exhibitions took place in Munich and preceded the publication of the almanac. The first, an exhibition
of paintings by Kandinsky, Marc, Auguste Macke and some others, took place in December 1911, and the second, a
graphics exhibition which included a wider range of artists from further afield, opened in the spring of 1912.
The aim of Der Blaue Reiter exhibitions was to highlight the similarities in different approaches to creating art, for
example, finding common ground between the primitive and the contemporary. They outlined this objective in the
catalogue for the first exhibition, 'We do not seek to propagate any precise or particular form; our object is to show, in
the variety of the forms represented, how the inner desire of artists realises itself in multiple fashion.'
Der Blaue Reiter came to an end after the deaths of Franz Marc and Auguste Macke during World War 1.
Kandinsky's painting was moving away from the depiction of realistic forms into the more spiritual realms of
abstraction. Since childhood he had studied music, playing both the piano and cello. He also had a highly developed
sense of synaesthetic response (experiencing colors in response to hearing sounds) and he recognized that color
could trigger our emotions much in the same way as music touches our soul. This link between the visual and the
aural inspired his experiments with color as an abstract element for the subject of a painting. The idea was reinforced
by a chance experience in 1908, 'I was returning, immersed in thought from my sketching, when on opening the
studio door I was suddenly confronted by a picture of incandescent beauty. Bewildered, I stopped and stared at it.
The painting lacked all subject, depicted no identifiable object and was entirely composed of bright color patches.
Finally, I approached closer and saw it for what it really was - my own painting, standing on its side on the
easel.....One thing became clear to me: that objectiveness, the depiction of objects, needed no place in my paintings,
and was indeed harmful to them.'
In his publication, of 1911, 'CONCERNING THE SPIRITUAL IN ART' he states that 'Color cannot stand alone; it
cannot dispense with boundaries of some kind ........A never-ending extent of red can only be seen in the mind; when
the word red is heard, the color is evoked without definite boundaries.'
His paintings of this period are attempts to release this psychic quality of color by freeing it from the task of describing
physical objects. In moving towards abstraction by breaking down the boundaries of realistic forms, Kandinsky tries to
tap into the more expressive power of color as it exists in the mind. Although, as in the musically and abstractly
titled 'Composition IV' above, there are still vague references to figures and objects in the landscape, color emerges
as an ephemeral force that energizes the entire canvas.
Kandinsky was the first artist to push painting towards total abstraction. He is quoted as saying,"Of all the arts,
abstract painting is the most difficult. It demands that you know how to draw well, that you have a heightened
sensitivity for composition and for colors, and that you be a true poet. This last is essential."
The Swiss artist Paul Klee took part in the second Der Blaue Reiter exhibition. Through the influence of Kandinsky,
Marc and Macke, Klee became interested in the abstract use of color. Klee, like Kandinsky was a talented musician
and the relationship between art and music was a driving force in his art. The painting above illustrates this link
between the arts.
The title 'Ad Parnassum' (towards Parnassus) refers to both Mount Parnassus (the home of the Muses - the nine
goddesses of the arts in Greek mythology) and 'Gradus Ad Parnassum' (the Path to Parnassus - the name of a
classic 18th century textbook on musical counterpoint). The bold triangle at the top of the picture represents Mount
Parnassus, the orange circle symbolizes the sun and the arch at the bottom indicates the door to the temple. The
most important element of this painting is the way that Klee uses color to express a musical idea. The underpainted
patches of background colors are like the deep base chords of a musical composition while the brighter mosaic-like
surface of dots act like a counterpoint to complete the harmony.

After the disintegration of the more formal Expressionist groups in Germany, Expressionism continued to evolve in a
variety of ways through the work of individual artists like Paul Klee and Max Beckmann. The Expressionist spirit
resurfaced in art across the world throughout the 20th century: Francis Bacon in Britain, the Abstract Expressionists in
the USA and eventually returning to Germany in the form of Anselm Kiefer in the last quarter of the century.
Max Beckman continued Die Brcke's spirit of protest and relationship with the art of the past in his disturbing
allegories of victimization and alienation. These powerful images, triggered by his traumatic experiences of the
trenches in the medical corps during WW1, often used the religious format of a triptych for their composition, recalling
Renaissance art like the Isenheim Altarpiece.
Francis Bacon, the British painter, also used the triptych format in his convulsive images of post-war angst and
abandonment. While personally denying any Expressionist influence in his art, his electrifying version of 'Pope
Innocent X', (again recalling the art of the past as it was based on the Velzquez painting of 1650), reinvents the
original Expressionist prototype: 'The Scream' by Edvard Munch.

The 'self expression' in the art of Vincent Van Gogh and Edvard Munch inspired Expressionist artists in the 20th

German Expressionism also drew inspiration from Fauvism, German Gothic and 'primitive art'.
German Expressionism was divided into two factions: Die Brcke and Der Blaue Reiter
Die Brcke (The Bridge) was an artistic community of young Expressionist artists in Dresden. Their aim
was to overthrow the conservative traditions of German art. Their 'bridge' was the path to a new and
better future for German art.
Der Blaue Reiter was a publication of essays on the Expressionist art forms. The aim of Der Blaue Reiter
exhibitions was to find the common creative ground between these diverse art forms.
After the various Expressionist groups disbanded, Expressionism spread and evolved in the work of
many individual artists across the world.