Impressionism and Post-Impressionism

Renoir and van Gogh, though both modern artists, are typically characterized as, respectively, impressionist and post-impressionist painters. The clear differences in technique, color, and overall composition between Renoir’s Pont Neuf (1872), Paris and Oarsmen at Chatou (1879) and van Gogh’s Roses (1890) and Green Wheat Fields, Auvers (1890) are evident on first glance, and represent the stark differences between the two movements. 

Impressionism and post-impressionism are reactions from dialogic situations of the art periods that preceded them (Irvine, 1). Impressionism begins from the rejection of academic works; paintings that featured idealized figures and a balanced composition (Strickland, 96). Impressionists, instead, sought to represent the fleeting moment, and Renoir found his inspiration from cafes and outdoor scenes, as seen in Pont Neuf (1872), Paris and Oarsmen at Chatou (1879) (Strickland, 96-97). Renoir’s dappled brushstrokes and use of depth of field contrast greatly to the post-impressionists, more specifically, van Gogh. Van Gogh and some his fellow post-impressionists found inspiration from the rejection of the previously mentioned fleeting moment. Instead of portraying a moment in time, post-impressionists aimed to introduce more emotive brushstrokes and a flatted composition (Strickland, 112). This gestural handiwork, and reduced depth of field, are clear in van Gogh’s Roses (1890) and Green Wheat Fields, Auvers (1890). 

Its interesting to think about the Artworld’s involvement in the outcomes of impressionism and post-impressionism. In 1874, Renoir, Monet, Degas, and others organized the first “impressionist” exhibition. However, the term hadn’t been coined yet. The term came from the title of one of Monet’s exhibited works, Impression, and a critic of the show had used the term ironically. From then on, the term “impressionism” gained momentum and labeled the movement (“How the Impressionists”).

For the post-impressionists, specifically van Gogh, he never saw success during his lifetime. While his brother supported his career, its clear that the support was one of devotion to family rather than to talent. Van Gogh’s paintings are some of the most recognizable, yet his fame came posthumously when his nephew, and namesake, opened a museum for his paintings. Had the Artworld recognized his talent, and not simply his mental illness, theres no telling where van Gogh’s successes could have ended.

Its fascinating to me how a few people’s opinions can influence art history.

“How the Impressionists Got Their Name.” Khan Academy, Accessed 28 Feb. 2019.

Irvine, Professor Martin. Introduction to Modern Art and Modernism: Framework for Case Studies at the National Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. p. 4.

Strickland, Carol, and John Boswell. The Annotated Mona Lisa: a Crash Course in Art History from Prehistoric to the Present. Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2017.