Post Impressionist Movement: Style & Famous Artists

Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

In this lesson, we'll be taking a look at the Post Impressionist Movement of art. We'll look at its distinctive, almost abstract style and the noteworthy names associated with it. When you're finished, you can test your knowledge with a quiz!


Forerunners to the great names of modern art, the Post-Impressionists bridged the gap between the restrictive techniques found in the Impressionist period with the emphasis on geometry found in modern art. Picasso himself claimed that his art would be impossible without this group of game-changing artists.

The Post-Impressionists were French artists who, although they drew the majority of their influence from earlier Impressionist masters, they rejected many of the limitations of that style. Impressionism focused on capturing the impression that a scene left upon the viewer, especially in the mind's eye of the artist. As such, many Impressionist scenes tended to portray nature, architecture, or particular moments in daily life. In contrast, Post-Impressionist art not only used these motifs, but also extended to scenes from daily life and even still life.

Beyond just the choice of subject matter, the Post-Impressionists also distinguished themselves from earlier artists in how they chose to use technique to create their compositions. Constantly adjusting the variables of a piece, Post-Impressionists would focus alternatively on color, shape, light, and even brush stroke technique to create their work. This flexibility in technique, especially in color and shape, would greatly inspire later artists, who, as a result, were finally free to explore their work without regard to stiff conventions.

Famous Artists

While the Post-Impressionist period was a time of several talented artists, the major themes of the period can best be seen through the work of these four in particular.

Paul Cezannewas one of the earliest Post-Impressionalists, and found himself abandoning the Impressionists' use of line in order to create boundaries in his work through other means. Crucial to this was a deeper exploration of color.

The Basket of Apples by Cezanne
The Basket of Apples

Paul Gauguin used Impressionist techniques, but with more attention to color. Notable was his particular interest in the role that color, rather than light, shape, or movement, could play in raising drama in a piece. He's equally, if not more, well-known for the fact that at the end of his life he chose to pursue this interest in French Polynesia, often finding time for romantic encounters with his native models.

Riders on the Beach by Gauguin
Riders on the Beach

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