Post-Impressionism is not a real style, but a very articulated historical-artistic phase that includes the artistic orientations that developed in France in the last twenty years of the 19th century. After 1880, in fact, Impressionism, understood as a collective experience, can be considered concluded. With the group of Impressionists dispersed, some protagonists of the movement took the opportunity to conduct independent research and experiment with different working methods, developing very original, highly personal styles.
These authors, later called Post-Impressionists, had in common the desire to overcome the precariousness of the visual impression in order to grasp the true secret essence of reality in the canvas. Post-Impressionism is so called by many scholars as it represents an overcoming or even a reaction to Impressionism. In fact, there are some substantial differences between the two movements:
• Impressionist painting is made en plein air (ie outdoors), in a few hours, with a rapid technique that tries to capture visual impressions in rarefied images. Impressionist paintings are small paintings, in which objects and people are represented with quick strokes, brushstrokes similar to spots, while the preliminary drawing and the chiaroscuro disappear, replaced instead by the combination of pure colors, which through our retina they are perceived as homogeneous. In fact, the Impressionist movement is based on a new consideration of color, based on the theories studied starting from 1840 by the chemist Chevreul. He had noticed that two woolen threads of different colors, looked at from a certain distance, appeared of the color resulting from the sum of the colors of the two single threads; he also noticed that the combination of two complementary colors enhanced their brightness.
• Post-Impressionist painting, on the other hand, recovers the contour line and the drawing (which Impressionist painting had banned), we return to painting indoors, in the ateliers, and the paintings return to having very large dimensions. Furthermore, according to the Post-Impressionists, everything is worthy of being represented and painting is not only responsible for the representation of the moment, but it begins to be seen as an expression of moods and a means of inner communication.
The most important exponents of Post-Impressionism were: Paul Cézanne, Paul Gaugin and Vincent Van Gogh.
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