Impressionism is about moving light as opposed to stationary light and how it falls on surfaces. It expressed the temporary or fleeting quality of life. Nothing was forever. The artists rejected the classical, dry subjects and precise and defined techniques of earlier styles. Paintings were often of street scenes, and of ordinary people in every day pursuits. “Impressionists rejected the system of state-controlled academies and salons in favor of independent exhibitions, the first of which was held in 1874.
They painted contemporary landscapes and scenes of modern life, especially of bourgeois leisure and recreation, instead of drawing on past art or historical and mythological narrative for their inspiration” (oxfordartonline. com) Perhaps most famously, Impressionists painted en plein air, and were most active between 1860 and 1900. This was the first truly modernized movement in art history. These artists used bright color in a unique way in an effort to capture light and movement within their paintings.
“Claude Monet’s Impression, Sunrise (Musee Marmottan Monet, Paris) exhibited in 1874, gave the Impressionist movement its name when the critic Louis Leroy accused it of being a sketch or “impression,” not a finished painting. It demonstrates the techniques many of the independent artists adopted: short, broken brushstrokes that barely convey forms, pure unblended colors, and an emphasis on the effects of light. ” (metmuseum. org) In other words, Impressionism did just that: rather than convey an explicit image, often religious or mythological in origin, it sought to convey merely the impression of a scene one might observe first-hand.
Societally, “Impressionism records the effects of the massive mid-nineteenth-century renovation of Paris led by civic planner Georges-Eugene Haussmann, which included the city’s newly constructed railway stations; wide, tree-lined boulevards that replaced the formerly narrow, crowded streets; and large, deluxe apartment buildings. Often focusing on scenes of public leisure – especially scenes of cafes and cabarets – the Impressionists conveyed the new sense of alienation experienced by the inhabitants of the first modern metropolis.” (theartstory. org) One can even argue that Impressionists focused on capturing the images of what the bourgeois experienced each day; a sort of observing and recording from the outside in. Post-Impressionism Post-impressionism, on the other hand, was a direct reaction to Impressionism. “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” (metmuseum. org) British artist and critic Roger Fry coined the term to publicize an exhibition in London in 1910. He titled it “Manet and the Post-Impressionists,” he hoped that the renowned Manet would help draw attention to the group of young French artists who were unknown in Britain. Post- impressionism was an array of styles from different artists all looking for new ways to express their artistic vision.
They took ideas from impressionism, such as using subjects and scenes from everyday life, brush stoke techniques and the use of brilliant colors but discarded the notion a of painting scenes exactly true to life. They experimented with texture and composition and while the impressionists were a cohesive group, the post impressionists were much more individualistic and developed their own forms. Beginning in the late 1880’s, this movement included Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cezanne, and heavily influenced the likes of Gustav Klimt and Pablo Picasso, to name a few.
The movement also sparked and somewhat encompasses Symbolism, which breaks further from realistic paintings and takes Post-impressionism one step farther by using bolder colors and more imaginative scenes. Here we see where Claude Monet’s Water Lilies and his seascapes painted in Etretat give way to Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night, for example. One could argue that Monet gave the viewer the impression of a beautiful garden pond, while Van Gogh recreated the night sky into something entirely new.
The relationship between Impressionism and Post-Impressionism is clearly one of direct reaction, and also of mutual benefit, as Impressionism clearly provided the foundation for the birth of Post-Impressionism. Rather than being a direct rejection, Post-Impressionism simply takes Impressionist movement and capitalizes on it; in other words, one might argue that Impressionism simply paved the way and desensitized society to the radicalism of Post-Impressionist artwork, allowing for wider acceptance and a more open-minded audience.
In fact, I would argue that both periods share far more in common than they are at odds. I am quite certain these artists had grown tired of Michelangelo-type biblical portrayals, and were also breaking free of some of the capitalist constraints put in place by wealthy commissioners of such paintings. Clearly, neither movement conveys the same realistic portrayals, or adherence to rules, by which Realism or other earlier art periods were constrained.
It is not such a great leap from Monet’s impression of a sunflower to Van Gogh’s sunflowers. They are cut from the same cloth, so to speak, with Post-Impressionism displaying more embellishment and symbology. The purpose then becomes to continue the earlier period of Impressionism, but allows the later painters, such as Picasso, to further express one’s self and ideas through the paintings. Post-Impressionism serves to breakdown further the societal constraints against which Impressionism began.
If Impressionism was testing the waters in a daring way, Post-Impressionism unapologetically took the ball and ran with it. Historically, Post-Impressionism then becomes the most influential and accessible of the two art periods, bearing greatest significance on the art world as we understand it today. This furthering of the Impressionist movement and ideals created many of the other most notable art movements, such as Symbolist art and Art Nouveau, like that of Gustav Klimt, andallowed for the greatest expansion of artistic decoration and ideas, as well as the greatest inclusion of varied styles. These new ideas in the world of art were influenced by Japonisme, and Arts and Crafts, and provided what could arguably be deemed the most open-minded period of art history. So while some critics argue that the impressionists paved the way for art movements such as Fauvism and Cubism, large number view post impressionism as the predecessor of the modern art movement in the 20th century.