Week 3 / September 13: Post-Impressionism

Vincent Van Gogh (Dutch, 1853-1890), Wheat Field with Cypresses, oil on canvas, 29 x 36 inches. Metropolitan Museum of Art


Post-Impressionism is not a defined style like Impressionism. The name designates only that it came after (or post) Impressionism in time during the late-19th Century (roughly the 1880s and 1890s). During this period, the ongoing developments and tremendous changes in modern society were reflected in the stylistic diversity and creativity in the visual arts.

Post-Impressionism, Symbolism and Art Nouveau were three visual styles that were prominent during this time, referred to in the MoMA essay ‘What is Modern Art?’ as the Belle Epoque, meaning ‘beautiful era.’ Next week, we will learn about Symbolism and Art Nouveau.

Most of the Impressionists were still working throughout this period and the Post-Impressionists knew these artists, often exhibited with them, and were influenced by different aspects of their work.

Each of the five main Post-Impressionist artists you will read about this week had individual ideas and techniques that were unique to them. In general, we see that abstraction is becoming more common as artists are not attempting to replicate the outside world in an optical or a visually realistic way, like the Impressionists. Instead, these five artists were influenced by the avant-garde approach of the Impressionists to break from tradition, but were determined to incorporate their own ideas and subjective interests into their work using abstraction to visually convey and express their subjective or personal responses to modernity in different ways.

Reading and note-taking for Post-Impressionism: See the assigned readings and videos listed below from the Met Museum and Khan Academy websites. Take notes of major information as you learn about each artist, keeping artists separate. Write out clear bullet points explaining the following 3 things as best you can in your own words for each of the artists individually:

  • What is the artist’s overall goal and/or ideas for their paintings? What are they exploring in a general and in a specific way and why is this important or interesting to them?
  • How does their imagery relate to their modern surroundings? What subjective, personal views about modern society are communicated through their work?
  • What about their technique or their style is important, innovative, or individually distinguishing? What do they do that is unique and/or important in their technique and treatment of the formal characteristics?

We will use this information in class next week. Bring these notes with you to have ready to use.

Read and watch the following:

  1. Met Museum’s short thematic essay introduction to Post-Impressionism – Link: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/poim/hd_poim.htm
  2. Short essays about each of the five main Post-Impressionist artists:
  1. From the list of Post-Impressionist artworks on the left side on Khan Academy’s Post-Impressionism Subheading within “The Avant-Garde: Realism, Impressionism and Post-Impressionism” content (Link: https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/becoming-modern/avant-garde-france/post-impressionism/v/seurat-bathers-at-asni-res-1884), select at least two different artworks by each of these Post-Impressionists, with an equal mix of videos and written essays, so you will have examined approx. 10 different artworks by the leading Post-Impressionists. (You are, of course, encouraged to read/view more than 2 for each artist. There are many artworks by Gauguin and Cezanne in particular on Khan Academy.)

Add any new information to your notes for each artist.

For class next week – summary of the 3 required things to do:

  1. Contribute something to the class discussion board for the Impressionists and verify that your information was correct for the Terms and Concepts post. If the comments indicate that your post needs correcting, clarification or updating, do this. Instructions for both are on each of the Blackboard discussion board home pages.
  2. Read and take notes on Post-Impressionism. Bring these notes for use in class.
  3. Review the Met Museum Assignment #1. If you would like to get started on the assignment this week, it is advised that you complete the assigned readings and videos for week 4 first. We will discuss this assignment at our next class.

Remember / FYI: There is a powerpoint for Post-Impressionism on Blackboard.