Post-Impressionism vs Impressionism

Post-Impressionism vs Impressionism

The difference between Impressionism and Post Impressionism

Impressionism was born as an art movement in Paris, amid the rapid urbanization of the city. The setting of Post-Impressionism was also in France, in the same century. Post-Impressionism was an art movement, which was a reaction to the stylistic trend set by Impressionism. Post-Impressionism brought to the foreground the subjective interpretation of the artist.

Academic art rendered formalist compositions of figures amid idyllic landscapes and realist renditions of human figures set in compositions bounded by perspective. What was important now was the soul of the artist who would then create art, fusing his feelings and thoughts into the elements and structure, giving art a new aesthetic value and led to the emergence of abstract trends of early modern art.

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What is Impressionism?

The term "impression" is embedded in the concept of this art style. The artists aimed to render life and movement that they were witnessing at a particular moment. So the artist painted his subjective impression of the object, the individual, or the landscape.

The Impressionist painter did away with the traditional painting style and themes. The new technology or ready mixed pigments were used in painting and influenced Plein air or outdoor painting. Modern everyday life was depicted on canvas, no longer the portraits of upper-class individuals or highly formalist compositions of religious or historical subjects. Themes came from ordinary life and included "movement" as an essential element in art.

Influence on artistic style is seen in the application of visible, thin brush strokes; in open compositions, not the formalist compositions using linear perspective, in showing time passing as seen in the changing qualities of light on canvas.

What is the Impressionist style?

Impressionism is the style of painting associated with French artists in 19th c, namely Claude Monet, Manet, Edgar Degas, Renoir.

The artists did not give very detailed renditions of their subjects and instead, sought to express the essence of the subject. They also focused on the effects of light. The painterly strokes applied were quick, spontaneous to show movement. Impressionist art sought to recreate an impression of a scene that is not stationary but changes with time.

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What are the key characteristics of Impressionism?

Themes were scenes of the daily life of the ordinary people and scenes of countryside life or leisure activities in the countryside. The main aim of the artist was to render an objective record of visual reality. Painters used radical, primary colors or red, blue, and yellow and veered away from the somber colors of classical painting.

Impression Sunrise by Claude Monet

Impression Sunrise by Claude Monet

This light work on water characterizes Monet's work throughout his life.

The painters now had synthetic pigments ready for use as their medium for painting. Whereas before, the artist had to mix the pigments himself There were now bright shades of colors, blue, yellow, green which they couldn't use before. For example, in Manet's work "Boating", 1874, he painted cerulean blue, "synthetic ultramarine".

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What makes Impressionism unique?

The impressionist artist painted the fleeting moment. This was a completely new way of painting subjects, compared to the idyllic or idealized themes of studio art in its rendition of portraits and biblical, mythical or historical scene and religious themes. There were developments in science which recognized that what the eye sees is different from what the brain contemplates. It is this difference, what the eye sees, the effects of light on vision, changes of the atmosphere, time passing: this is what the Impressionists captured on their canvas.

The impressionist artists put into their art, the momentary, the impression the eye has of objects before him. So the artists went to the streets of the city to paint ordinary life; they went to the countryside and painted Plein air works or outdoor painting, a style which began with the Barbizon painters in 1830, in Barbizon, France in the trend toward realism in art.

While as a group, their aim was to capture the moment, the Impressionist artists had varied individualistic styles.

Claude Monet Most Famous Paintings 

The Child’s Bath by Mary Cassatt

The Child's Bath Painting by Mary Cassatt

Themes of impressionist Art

  • Every day, the urban life of Paris, countryside scenes became the new subjects of paintings. Monumental scenes were no longer painted.
  • Scenes of leisure spent in the countryside: outside Paris were also the subject of Impressionist painters like Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet. The railway made travel convenient for Parisians to go on weekend trips to the countryside while many artists lived in the country part of the year. Scenes ranged from the daily life of local people in Pontose, such as were depicted by Camille Pisarro. Or scenes of leisure spent by vacationers in boating and swimming in beaches, such as Monet's rendition of these leisure activities in La Grenouillere (1869).
  • Landscapes are a frequent subject in Impressionist art which uses modernist compositions, impressionist ways of depicting light and pure color.
  • Urban life: Monet emphasized the modernization of the landscape by including railways and factories, signs of encroaching industrialization that would not be accepted as a proper subject by the Barbizon artists.
  • Paris was then undergoing extensive renovation under Emperor Napoleon III, as a modern city. Impressionist painters Pisarro and Gustave Caillebotte used the impressionist style to paint the cityscape, the new boulevards of modern Paris, its wide gardens, and modern buildings.
  • Other artists painted the people; the ordinary citizen was now a subject of painting. Degas and Caillebotte painted scenes of workers, singers, dancers.
  • The upper classes of privilege were painted by Mary Cassatt, an American Impressionist painter who stayed in Paris, and Berthe Morisot.
  • Theater, concerts, dances, cafes were the new forms of entertainment and leisure. Mary Cassatt in her artwork "In the Loge" (1878) painted the entertainment of theatre. While Caillebott painted city scenes and people's lives in his Paris Street, Rainy Day (1877).
  • The artists rendered moments in the people's lives in an objective manner, without narrating or involving themselves in the scenes. 

Woman with a Parasol - Madame Monet and Her Son by Claude Monet

Woman with a Parasol - Madame Monet and Her Son by Claude Monet


Style and technique of Impressionism

  • The artists rendered broken brushstrokes, short loose strokes which gave the style a spontaneous effect. The emphasis was on the effects of light. The neutral gray and black backgrounds of classical paintings gave way to Impressionist innovative rendition of shadows as well as highlights in pure color, unblended colors.
  • A little mixture of paint on the palette before applying on canvas; color was applied side by side: colors were contrasted simultaneously which led to more vivid color effects. This led to optical mixing, which is colors blend optically rather than on the palette. No smooth color transitions.
  • Emphasis on the play of natural light: the effects of light were shown as reflected on surfaces; settings in the evening or twilight showed effects of shadows at night.
  • The painting was done during hours of the day when there were long shadows.
  • The backdrop is white or of light color, as contrasted to dark or grey background of classical art.

What started Impressionism?

When artists Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley began painting "Plein air" landscapes. Plein air referred to outdoor painting. At the time, this was experimental art, a departure from the indoor studio painting of Renaissance art, classical art.

These four artists were studying in the art academy and realized that they preferred to paint landscape and modern life, not the classical mythical subjects taught in the academy. They wanted to paint scenes outdoors, in direct sunlight, showing the changing effects of sunlight and using brighter colors.

This led to the painting of the momentary impressions of scenes. It was also made possible by the availability of. portable, ready-mixed paint pigments; before this, painters had to mix their colors so the portability of paint was out of the question. 

The Absinthe Drinker by Edgar Degas

The Absinthe Drinker by Edgar Degas

A man and a lady, albeit sitting next to each other, are secured quiet separation, their eyes vacant and dismal, with hanging highlights and general quality of devastation.

When did Impressionism start?

An art exhibition in Paris, in 1874, was held by the Anonymous Society of Painters, Sculptors, and Printmakers, a break-away group of artists who rejected the official Salon in Paris. This launched the Impressionist movement led by Claude Monet, Camille Pisarro, Edgar Degas, and gained momentum despite rejection by critics and by the Salon in Paris. During this time, the official Salon dominated the art scene, dictated the norms.

A jury composed of artists from the Academie des Beaux-Arts selected artworks for distinctive awards The official Salon, in its 1863 annual awards, refused entry to many artists which included some of the founders of the Impressionist movement.

The Salon des Refuses was thus formed by the prefect of Emperor Napoleon III so that rejected artists in the official Salon could display their works. The Salon des Refuses was joined by some of the Impressionist artists.

The name "Impressionism" was derived from a painting by Monet, " Impressionism Soleil Levant" which was displayed in an exhibit of Monet's paintings. The term "Impressionism" was used as a derogatory term by art critic Louis Leroy who derided Monet's paintings as not works of art, but only unfinished "impressions". Officially, the launching group of Impressionist artists used the term "Impressionism" in their third exhibition of the Anonymous Society of Painter, Sculptors, and Printmakers, to identify their art style.

The impressionists each displayed a different and individual approach to painting which were derided by official critics. as unfinished sketches. There were, however, more progressive individuals who appreciated these paintings of modern life, of everyday scenes; and regarded the new style as a revolutionary painting style. Eventually, as the casual style gained acceptance, it was accepted in the official Salon as the way to render modern life.

Impressionism in the visual arts began to bear fruit in the other arts, as impressionist music and literature. The influence of Impressionism also spread to other parts of Europe and gained much headway and wide popularity in the United States.

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How long did Impressionism last?

Impressionism lasted for twenty years. It began in 1867 and ended sometime in 1886.

Who are the Impressionist artists?

Edouard Manet, Claude Monet Edgar Degas, Pierre Auguste Renoir led the Impressionist movement. Gustave Caillebotte was a younger artist who joined the group in the 1870s. Mary Cassatt, born in America and lived in Paris, took part in 4 exhibitions. Frederic Bazille, Armand Guillemin, Berthe Morisot, Camille Pisarro, Alfred Sisley were among the many Impressionist painters in France.

Impressionism spread to Austria, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, and other European countries and reached the United States where it was popularly accepted.

Mary Cassatt Famous Paintings

A Cotton Office in New Orleans by Edgar Degas

A Cotton Office in New Orleans by Edgar Degas

Degas portrays the minute when his uncle Michel Musson's cotton financier business failed in a monetary accident, as indicated by Michael McMahon of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 

What is Post Impressionism?

Post-impressionism began in 1890, in Paris. There were other artists gaining prominence in the art scene who felt that the subject matter of art is more important than its style. They veered away from the concentration on style by the Impressionists. They believed that art is not just about style or aesthetic approach.

These artists were Paul Cezanne, Henri Rousseau, Toulouse Lautrec, Vincent Van Gogh, Georges Seurat.

The focus of art was now the artist's subjective vision. Their style was subjective, the artist wanted to "evoke emotion" not depict realistic renditions.

The theme of painting now entered the mind and soul of the artist; it became a window into the mind of the artist.

This art trend strongly influenced the art movements in the 20th century, such as Expressionism. What mattered to the artist was the personal meaning of experiences or scenes; what these symbolized to the artist.

Artists like Gauguin or Van Gogh searched into their emotions or memories to paint how they saw the outside world, and envelope it within this vision. There was no one common style, each artist had his own style. What binds the Post Impressionist artists was their use of symbolic motifs, their unconventional color selection, and painterly brushstrokes.

Famous Edgar Degas Paintings 

The Basket of Apples Still life by Paul CĂ©zanne

The Basket of Apples Still life by Paul CĂ©zanne

What are the key characteristics of Post-Impressionism?

  • Symbolic, highly personal meanings, memories, and emotions connect the artist with the viewer on a deeper level.
  • The optical effects of color dominated the aesthetic vision of Post-Impressionists, among whom were Georges Seurat, Paul Cezanne, and Paul Signac. They showed the interrelation of color and shape to render the surrounding world.
  • Structure, order, exploration of geometric simplifications such as done in Cezanne's artworks.
  • The influence of flat planes and the color of Japonism; Japanese Ukiyo-e prints influenced Toulouse Lautrec's work and works of Van Gogh and Gauguin.
  • There was no prevailing unified style that characterized Post-Impressionism. Styles were individualized. There was much focus on abstract form, an abstract pattern when applying paint on canvas; this abstraction prefigured modern, abstract trends in early 20th century.
  • Two stylistic divergent trends in Post-Impressionism: one was geometric, structured led the way for Cubism. The other was a non-geometric, expressive style that led the way to Abstract Expressionism, both art trends of the early 20th century.

Famous Paintings by Paul CĂ©zanne

What is the Post-Impressionism style?

The styles of Post-Impressionist artists varied widely. It included the scientific Neo-Impressionism rendered by Georges Seurat; the symbolism of Paul Gauguin, pointillism in George Seurat's art. There was no one unified stylistic technique among Post-Impressionist artists.

What makes Post-Impressionism unique?

The content of their art was basically emotional symbolism portrayed by the artist, using the different elements of art. There were no formalist limitations to composition.

Technique and style were equally given an artistic interpretation that gave birth to styles like pointillism, and synthetism, a near fusion of philosophy with the artistic elements. The freedom given to artistic interpretation opened pathways to trends in abstraction in early modern art.

Interesting Facts About Paul CĂ©zanne

The Card Players by Paul CĂ©zanne

The Card Players by Paul CĂ©zanne

What started Post Impressionism?

Post-impressionist artists moved away from the concern of Impressionist artists in their depiction of light and color. The Post-Impressionist painters sought to bring the art focus toward subject matter, towards the artist's emotive portrayal of themes, and less on the objective depiction of scenes devoid of intent to evoke feeling on the subject.

Art critic and curator Roger Fry stated that:

" Post-Impressionists believed that a work of art should not revolve around style, process, or aesthetic approach. Instead, it should place emphasis on symbolism, communicating messages from the artist’s own subconscious. Rather than employ subject matter as a visual tool or means to an end, Post-Impressionists perceived it as a way to convey feelings. According to Paul CĂ©zanne, 'a work of art which did not begin in emotion is not a work of art.' ”

When did Post-Impressionism start? How long did it last?

Post-Impressionism began sometime in 1885-1886 and lasted approximately until 1910.

Camille Pissarro Famous Paintings

The Boulevard Montmartre on a Winter Morning by Camille Pissarro

The Boulevard Montmartre on a Winter Morning by Camille Pissarro

Who are Post Impressionism artists?

Paul Cezanne, Henri Rousseau, Vincent Van Gogh, Edouard Vuillard, Toulouse Lautrec were among the leading Post-Impressionist artists. Post-Impressionism spread to Norway, Belgium, and other countries in Europe.

Post-impressionism vs Impressionism

Post-Impressionism vs Impressionism

When it comes to post-impressionism vs impressionism, both eras produced their own expressive artists, while both have similarities in artistic expression, theme, and style -- in this section of post-impressionism vs impressionism, we will go over in detail the differences and similarities between the art movements.

Post-impressionism vs Impressionism: their similarities

  • key distinctive brushstrokes, visible, "discernible, broad brushstrokes" gave texture, did away with the smooth paint finish of classical, Renaissance art style; added depth to the artwork. These were the artists' statements - away from the realistic representation of classical art.
  • When it comes to post-impressionism vs impressionism, had exhibitions with the public, as their audience. Art was no longer the sole turf of the royal class, the nobility, the upper class. Both movements began in Paris.
  • Both Impressionists and Post-Impressionists used real-life subjects; they used distinctive brushstrokes and thick layers of paint. 

The Hermitage at Pontoise by Camille Pissarro

The Hermitage at Pontoise by Camille Pissarro

Post-Impressionism vs Impressionism: their difference in theme and style

  • City life was not a constant theme in Post-Impressionism. The noted artists lived outside Paris where they developed their art style. For instance, Cezanne settled in Provence, Van Gogh was at the peak of his style during his stay in Arles; and most striking was Gauguin's total rejection of Paris and his retreat to Tahiti where he painted his master artworks.
  • Impressionist painters focused on the spontaneous rendition of light and color. Post-Impressionist painters focused on symbolic content, formal structure.
  • Style made the difference. Impressionist style is characterized by the use of vivid colors, visible brushstrokes, depicting the changing qualities of light, extreme angles of composition, subjects taken from ordinary, modern life. Post-impressionist art styles were as varied as each individual artist was, such as the pointillism of Georges Seurat which scientifically applied pure color points, the Japanese influence on painting style, the synthetism of Paul Gauguin which refers to the synthesis of three aspects namely the outward form, the artist's inner feelings, and the aesthetic norms, the primitivism of Henri Rousseau in his themes and intuitive self-taught style; the cubism of Cezanne with geometric components as the basis of his compositions.
  • Post-Impressionist artists still used bright colors and thick paint and subjects of ordinary life. However, Post-Impressionist art emphasized the use of geometric forms and their colors were not natural.

Is Starry Night Impressionism or Post Impressionism?

When it comes to post-impressionism vs impressionism, most art aficionados pose the question if the Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh is post-impressionism, impressionism or is it a blend of both?

The starry night by Vincent Van Gogh

The starry night by Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent Van Gogh The Starry Night Meaning

The Starry Night is a view of the landscape by the artist's window just before sunrise; a timeless work of beauty, recognized and loved by many.

The Starry Night is a composition by Post-Impressionist artist Vincent Van Gogh who painted rural landscape and rural life. He wanted to paint the sense of magic that was embedded in nature. It is this sense of the magic in nature that one sees in the swirling colors blending hills and the trees with the blue skies of The Starry Night.

While it is said that the optical effects of light on the landscape bears the imprint of impressionism, lightly rendered in this work is not natural light but artificial light. The dramatic composition, dramatic and symbolic colors, the long brush strokes, the emotional evocative appeal of the theme all blend to portray more than the outside appearance of the scenery. It is a Post-Impressionist art.

The artist Vincent Van Gogh said: "Real painters do not paint things as they are... they paint them as they themselves feel them to be."

Van Gogh self-portrait by Vincent Van Gogh

Van Gogh self-portrait by Vincent Van Gogh

The self-portrait is an oil painting on canvas (65x54 cm) made in 1889.

Breaking ground in art

Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists pioneered in style and in theme and broke ground with classical studio art, and with accomplished art as defined by the Salons of Paris, in the closing years of the 19th century.

The two movements were precursors of the modern art movement in the boldness of their experimentation, their artistic interpretations, and artistic statements, and creations.

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