The post-impressionists were artists of the late 19th century who saw the work of the French Impressionist painters and were influenced by them. Their art styles grew out of the style called Impressionism. The word "Post-" means "after", so "post-impressionist" painting came after "impressionist" painting. These artists developed impressionism but rejected its limitations. They continued using the real-life subject matter, with vivid colours, often with thick paint. However, they added other ideas. Using geometric forms, to distorting form for effect, and using unnatural colours are some of their ways. The critic Rewald said "the term 'post-impressionism' is not a very precise one, though a very convenient one".
The main post-impressionist painters were Paul Cezanne, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Georges Seurat, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and Henri Rousseau ('Le Douanier'). Picasso and Braque were certainly post-impressionists, but we describe them as Cubists.
The post-impressionist painters lived in France and knew each other, but they did not work together as a group, in the way that some of the impressionists did. They painted in ways that were different from each other. The post-impressionists led the way for other artists to experiment and develop all the different styles of Modern art in the 20th century.
- Paul Cezanne was friendly with Claude Monet and the other Impressionist painters, and used to show his paintings in the Impressionist exhibitions. But after a time, his style became quite different to theirs. He began to paint the landscape in planes of colour. (A plane is a flat surface). His ideas about constructing things in pictures out of planes of colour influenced other artists like Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque to paint pictures in a style called Cubism.
- Paul Gauguin liked to paint in very bright colours and flat patterns. He often painted village people in their bright clothes. Vincent van Gogh met Gauguin and invited him to live with him so that they could share their ideas about paintings. But this did not work well, and van Gogh became very upset. Gauguin left France and went to live on the island of Tahiti, where he painted the people. His ideas about colour and pattern influenced other artists such as Henri Matisse to paint brightly-coloured pictures in a style called Fauvism.
- Vincent van Gogh, like Gaugin, painted in bright colours. His style is very different to that of Gauguin, because he often put paint onto the canvas in short brushstrokes that make lots of wavy lines. His style is very different to any other artist's. Van Gogh suffered from mental illness most of his life, and never sold a painting. It is thought that the way that he painted was affected by his illness. Other artist were influenced by his work, because they felt that they could be free to "express their feelings" in their paintings, instead of trying to paint realistically. One group of painters who were influenced by van Gogh and Gauguin were the Expressionist painters.
- Henri Toulouse-Lautrec was a rich, but sickly and disabled man who lived in Paris and painted the people that he met at nightclubs, cafes and theatres. He was excellent at drawing, and most of his paintings are thinly painted so that they are really drawings in paint. Some of them are drawings in pastel. Toulouse-Lautrec made many portraits and scenes of the "night-life" of Paris. He also designed many posters to advertise the entertainments.
- Georges Seurat, like Cezanne, was a friend of the Impressionists. Like them, he was interested in understanding the effects of light on colour. He studied light and experimented with painting pictures in hundreds of tiny dots of bright colour. Seurat's style of painting is called Pointillism.
- Henri Rousseau was another artist who knew the Impressionists. He worked as a toll collector, so his friends called him Le Douanier, the customs official. He painted as a hobby. Although he sometimes painted portraits, most of his pictures are from his imagination and are like dreams. He never had any lessons, and his paintings have a rather child-like quality. Artists that paint like this are called 'naive' artists.
The Post-Impressionist painters all experimented in different ways with the ideas of the Impressionists. Most of the important art movements (styles) of the twentieth century developed out of their work. Even though the Post-Impressionist painters were not well known in their lifetimes, they became so famous that in the 21st century their paintings sell for millions of dollars.
Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, At the Moulin Rouge, (1895) The artist left his wealthy home and went to live in Montmartre in Paris where he painted the people of the bars and theatres.
Paul Gauguin, Arearea (1891). Gauguin left Paris and went to live in the islands of Tahiti where he painted the people, their bright clothes and customs.
Edouard Vuillard, Portrait of Theodore Duret, (1812). Vuillard shows the walls, desks, books and papers surrounding the figure as if the viewer was standing in the room.
Vincent van Gogh, Self Portrait, (1889) Van Gogh has painted himself against a whirling background that might represent his thoughts.
Toulouse-Lautrec, Woman Bathing (1889). Toulouse-Lautrec has painted a figure so that its "silhouette" (outline) is important.
Paul Gauguin, Women on the Beach, (1891). Gauguin has painted these women so that shapes, colour and patterns are important.
Georges Seurat, The Bec du Hoc at Grandcamp (1893). Seurat spent a long time carefully painting this scene in tiny dots.
Vincent van Gogh, Mountains, San Remy, (1889). Van Gogh painted quickly in waving lines that make the landscape look as if it is moving.
Paul Gauguin, Tahitian Landscape, (1893). Gauguin usually painted people but sometimes painted brightly-coloured landscapes.
Paul Cezanne, Mont Sainte Victoire (1905). Cezanne painted this mountain many times from many angles and in different light.
Vincent van Gogh, Starry Night over the Rhone River (1888) Van Gogh painted the real world as an amazing place.
Henri Rouseau, The Snake Charmer, (1907) Rouseau painted an amazing world from his imagination.