Broad term covering various developments in French painting that developed out of Impressionism
in the period from about 1880 to about 1905. Some of these developments built on the achievements of Impressionism, but others were reactions against its concentration on surface appearances, seeking to reintroduce a concern with emotional and symbolic values.
The term was coined in 1910 by the British art critic Roger Fry, in the title of Manet and the Post-Impressionists, an exhibition he organized at the Grafton Galleries, London. Fry also organized a second post-Impressionist exhibition two years later.
The artists who were best represented at the first exhibition were Cézanne
, and van Gogh
, and these three are regarded as the most important and influential of the post-Impressionists, closely followed by Georges Seurat
. Seurat was the founder of the movement called neo-Impressionism
, in which artists attempted to treat colour and light with the same affection as the Impressionists, but in a more rational and consistent way. Cézanne, Gauguin, and van Gogh all thought that Impressionism had concentrated too much on appearances; they wanted painting to be colourful and modern, as the Impressionists had made it, but they also wanted it to be deeply serious. Cézanne tried to combine Impressionist warmth with a powerful sense of structure; Gauguin used line and colour symbolically to deal with timeless themes of life and death; and van Gogh used vivid colour and vigorous brushwork to express human passions.
Fry's post-Impressionist exhibitions, especially the first, attracted a huge amount of publicity. It was the first time that the work of Cézanne, Gauguin, and van Gogh had been seen in such strength in Britain (there were more than 20 paintings by each of them in the first exhibition) and many people with conservative views thought that their pictures were childish and degenerate; some people thought that Fry was insane. However, many artists were greatly impressed with the exhibitions and they had a particularly strong influence on several members of the Camden Town Group
, encouraging them to use strong, flat colour.
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