Art Movements Throughout History: Impressionism and Post Impressionism

We’re continuing our journey through art history and exploring the major movements that helped lead us to the art world we know today. Last week we discussed how the Renaissance changed the pace in all areas of art, philosophy, architecture and science throughout Europe. We also talked about how Baroque art was inspired by the reformation and Realism turned its focus from the dramatic and theatrical to simple every day life following the French Revolution. This week we’re going to talk about impressionism and post impression. Let’s start.


Claude Monet, Impression, Sunrise, 1872

Beginning in the 19th century, Impressionism turned away from the rules of academic painting. Impressionistic art is characterized by visible brush strokes and a focus on light and movement.

The movement is believed to have begun in 1874 when artists, naming themselves the Anonymous Society of Painters, Sculptors, Printmakers, etc. held a Paris exhibition featuring their new style of work. Founding members of the group included Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, and Camille Pissarro who joined together in rebellion against the Académie des Beaux-Arts. While some critics rejected the new technique and dismissed the artwork as unfinished sketches, some critics, such as Edmond Duranty, noted the style as innovative and revolutionary in his 1876 essay La Nouvelle Peinture. The term Impressionism was inspired by Money’s Impression, Sunrise which was featured at the 1874 exhibition.


Vincent Van Gogh, Wheat Field with Cypresses, 1889

As one group of artists rebelled, so did another. Post-Impressionism began during the 1880s as artists began to break away from the naturalism portrayed in Impressionism. Instead of focusing on optical impressions, Post-Impressionists sought to focus on simple colors and decisive forms often giving the works a somewhat abstract feel. Famous Post-Impressionism artists include Paul Gaugin, Vincent Van Gogh, and Paul Cézanne. Although these artists never referred to themselves as Post-Impressionists, the term was later named at critic and artist Roger Fry’s exhibition Manet in 1910.