Skip to Main Content

MHS Library | Post Impressionism

Post Impressionism

Post Impressionism in Twentieth Century European Art (examples of artists/artworks)

Dish of Apples, ca. 1875–77
Paul Cézanne (French, 1839–1906)
Oil on canvas; 18 1/8 x 21 3/4 in. (46 x 55.2 cm)

Cezanne, Still life with apples

Gauguin, The red cow

Subject guide created by

contact Tania Sheko 

What is Post 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. Among the nascent generation of artists responding to Impressionism, Paul Gauguin (1848–1903), Georges Seurat (1859–1891), Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890), and the eldest of the group, Paul Cézanne (1839–1906), followed diverse stylistic paths in search of authentic intellectual and artistic achievements. These artists, often working independently, are today called Post-Impressionists. Although they did not view themselves as part of a collective movement at the time, Roger Fry (1866–1934), critic and artist, broadly categorized them as "Post-Impressionists," a term that he coined in his seminal exhibition Manet and the Post-Impressionists installed at the Grafton Galleries in London in 1910. (

Read more here.

Still Life with Teapot and Fruit, 1896
Paul Gauguin (French, 1848–1903)
Oil on canvas; 18 3/4 x 26 in. (47.6 x 66 cm)

The art of Paul Gauguin developed out of similar Impressionist foundations, but he too dispensed with Impressionistic handling of pigment and imagery in exchange for an approach characterized by solid patches of color and clearly defined forms, which he used to depict exotic themes and images of private and religious symbolism. Gauguin's peripatetic disposition took him to Brittany, Provence, Martinique, and Panama, finally settling him in remote Polynesia, at first Tahiti then the Marquesas Islands. Hoping to escape the aggravations of the industrialized European world and constantly searching for an untouched land of simplicity and beauty, Gauguin looked toward remote destinations where he could live easily and paint the purity of the country and its inhabitants. In Tahiti, he made some of the most insightful and expressive pictures of his career. Ia Orana Maria (Hail Mary)(51.112.2) resonates with striking imagery and Polynesian iconography, used unconventionally with several well-known Christian themes, including the Adoration of the Magi and the Annunciation. He described this picture in a letter to a dealer friend in Paris: "An angel with yellow wings points out Mary and Jesus, both Tahitians, to two Tahitian women, nudes wrapped in pareus, a sort of cotton cloth printed with flowers that can be draped as one likes from the waist" (letter to Daniel de Monfreid, March 11, 1892).

In Two Tahitian Women (49.58.1) and Still Life with Teapot and Fruit (1997.391.2), Gauguin employs simplified colors and solid forms as he builds flat objects that lack traditional notions of perspective, particularly apparent in the still-life arrangement atop a white tablecloth pushed directly into the foreground of the picture plane.

Examples of work by Toulouse-Lautrec

See examples of work by Toulouse-Lautrec on Google Art Project

Panneaux pour la baraque de la Goulue, à la Foi... (1895)

by Henri de Toulouse-LautrecMusée d’Orsay, Paris

Post Impressionism - definition

Post Impressionism - In early Modernism,French art movement that immediately followed Impressionism and Neo-Impressionism. The artistsinvolved, usually meaning Paul Cézanne (French, 1839-1906), Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853-1890), Paul Gauguin (French, 1848-1903), and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (French, 1864-1901) showed a greater concern for expressionstructure and form than did the Impressionist artists. Building on the works of the Neo-Impressionists, these artists rejected the emphasis the Impressionists put on naturalismand the depiction of fleeting effects of light. (Source:

Georges Seurat

Seurat, Young woman powdering herself

Van Gogh

Toulouse Lautrec, At the Moulin Rouge