Post-Impressionism and Expressionism

Topic 4: Post-Impressionism and Expressionism

  • The emergence of the Impressionists marked the beginning of a new age of "-isms", when the continual development of new styles and new ways of seeing by individuals or small groups became a central feature of modern art. Once the Impressionists had made their break with tradition, other artists began to push the boundaries of painting even further. Some of the most important artists were hard to classify, and are simply known as Post-Impressionists. Key among them are Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, and Paul Cezanne.

  • Van Gogh, in common with many later Impressionists, was influenced by color theory and by Japanese printmaking, but he is best known for his interpretation of the loose Impressionist brushstroke. Van Gogh's brushstrokes became a form of expression, a reflection of the artist's feelings. This style of painting would become known as Expressionism and would be most influential in northern Europe. The image usually known as The Scream, by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, is the best-known example. There was also a well-known German school of Expressionism, most active in the years around World War I.

  • Gauguin, like Van Gogh, was willing to use both color and perspective as expressive devices, instead of direct reflections of reality. Gauguin also exemplifies the Western art world's increasing fascination with "primitive" and non-Western art, working in remote country districts of Brittany before leaving Europe behind for Tahiti. His work reflects the influence of Breton folk art and of Polynesian art. Gauguin's use of flat areas of bold color would be central to the school of art known as Fauvism.

  • The work of Paul Cezanne forms a bridge between the Impressionists and the later Cubists. Cezanne used color and brushstrokes not to express emotion but to build up a sense of volume and depth without relying on traditional one-point perspective. Cezanne's experiments with space, volume, and perception set the stage for even more radical breakthroughs.

Related Links:
Post-Impressionism & the Rise of Modernism Quiz
The Rise of Modernism: Cubism, Fauvism and Abstraction
AP Art History Quizzes
AP Art History Notes