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During the mid 1860’s artists in France became discontent with the style of painting proscribed by the National School Of Art. This school (also called: Ecole des Beaux-Arts) emphasized painting using black outlines and shadows. Artist such as Claud Monet, August Renoir, Alfred Sisley, and Jean-Frederic proposed that black outlines and shadows not be used because these details did not exist in nature. This new school of though came to be know as ‘impressionist’ and these artists advocated for the use of colors directly from nature. The colors were to be juxtaposed and were to be mixed optically by the viewer’s eye. An example of Pre-Impressionist art (Rembrandt’s Sacrifice of Isaac) can be found in Annex A. An example of Impressionist art (Edouard Manet) can also be found in Annex A.
Post Impressionists did not advocate for change to any one style but moved to include new forms of representation. Post-Impressionists wished to retain the basic values of Impressionism. Artists wanted new subjects and wanted to deepen the meaning of their paintings.
Paul Gaugan was an Impressionist that moved to embrace Post-Impressionism in the 1880’s. His work included flat planes of color and he tried to include subjects in different cultures. Annex A. contains and example of his work called “Woman in the Waves (Ondine), 1889”. It also important to note that Post Impressionist were fascinated with prints, especially Japanese prints.
Expressionism followed in the late 19th to early 20th century. Expressionist were opposed to academic standards for their art. Expressionist’s work emphasized the subjective emotion of the painter. Expressionism is very different than the other forms of art. Paintings are often distorted or altered, have violent colors, exaggerated lines, and show intense emotion. Best descriptions of paintings from this era are vivid, jarring, violent, and dynamic. One of the most famous artists of Expressionism is Vincent Van Gogh. His painting, called “the Starry Night”, can be found in Annex A.
Expressionism was most dominant in Germany and artists of this genre used art to express their intense feelings. German painters part of the Die Brucke (The Brook) were from Dresden and Berlin. Emil Nolde’s (German, 1867-1956) can be found in Annex A.
Beginning with the Impressionists artists began to sway from the academic norm taught in art schools in Europe. Artists began to look at painting as more than replication of forms but as a way to express themselves. From Impressionism that loses the dark lines and shadows, through Post-Impressionism where artists begin to use a complete palate of colors, to Expressionism where artists used art to express their innermost feelings, the art of painting has gone through dramatic changes.
Perhaps the vivid and violent nature of paintings from Expressionism told of things to come such as World War I and II. Many Expressionists had lived through World War I and painting was there way of expressing the horrors of war. These painters live through the chaos of Europe and the disintegration of cities, towns, and countries. One can speculate that paintings were meant to send a message that war is a horrible thing that should be avoided at all cost.
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