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Post-Impressionism: The Beginnings of Modern Art

Immerse yourself in the radiant color and light of the Post-Impressionist painters.
Post-Impressionism: The Beginnings of Modern Art is rated 4.8 out of 5 by 33.
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Rated 2 out of 5 by from INACCURACIES + OPINIONS - 10 EXAMPLES PROVIDED It might be helpful to also preface my Comments by stating that I have watched over 200 courses on Wondrium/Great Courses over the years. I will first summarize my take on this Course, which includes both its positive and negative aspects, where the latter focuses on Lecture 15. Afterwards, I provide 10 Examples to support my criticism, especially of Lecture 15. Lecture 15 on Gauguin is full of INACCURACIES AND OPINIONS, a number of which seem outlandish. Likewise, Lecture 15 LACKS SCHOLARLY BALANCE—which is appropriate/necessary when some scholars view a set of facts as indicating ‘X’, while other scholars view a set of facts as indicating ‘Y’. Allman complains that Gauguin “plays fast and loose with the truth” in Lecture 15—which might have some merit—but Allman does the SAME and often. In fact, Lecture 15 is one of the two WORST ‘30-minutes’ I have ever watched on Wondrium. It is essentially tied for ‘Worst’ with a lecture from a recent update on ‘The Black Death’, which makes me concerned that the high standards that GreatCourses has achieved may be starting crumble a bit. While Lecture 15 asks, “How does one talk about great artists who did terrible things?”, Prof Allman NEVER PROVIDES AN ANSWER. (For instance, he could/should have discussed placing placards next to paintings explaining context, placing paintings by two artists next to each other to compare their interpretations of a certain subject, viewing artists in the age they lived in and not by the standards of today, etc.) Rather, in many ways Lecture 15 is essentially a CHARACTER ASSASSINATION of Gauguin. And, Klimt and Rousseau receive somewhat similar treatment in other lectures, though much less in comparison to what Gauguin gets. On a related, Prof Allman makes various accusations of ‘CULTURAL APPROPRIATION’ that seem NOT TO MEET the very definition of such Allman himself had provided in his ‘How To Paint’ Course on Wondrium (but did not provide in this Course). There are also appears to be a couple of UNSUPPORTED accusations of RACISM against some artists (Gauguin and Rousseau). While I would tend to agree with another Reviewer that Lecture 15 (and some other portions of this Course) seems to reflect some BIAS (e.g., ‘Wokeness’), my comments herein do not rely on that at all. Rather, my main concern is the LACK OF ACCURACY that pervades Lecture 15 and some other portions of this course (for whatever reason they exist). Thus, as the other Reviewer already suggested, I agree Lecture 15 should be trashed and redone. It may be helpful to acknowledge that Prof Allman is not alone in his condemnation of Gauguin as a human being since it would appear a number of others in academia and the art world are considering ‘cancelling’ Gauguin—e.g., “Is It Time Gauguin Got Cancelled” as per a NYTimes titled article from 2019. However, IF anyone is to be ‘cancelled’, can we at least agree that facts should matter? In this regard, IMHO Allman's Lecture 15 FALLS VERY SHORT in this regard. Perhaps this might have something to do with the fact that he is not actually professor of Art History, but rather of Drawing and Painting. That said, there is otherwise much valuable info in this course, and I do recommend watching the majority of it (though I took a couple stars off for what I consider very serious flaws). Moreover, I am sincerely glad it seems to have inspired those new to the subject and I hope they continue exploring the world of art, just as my first course in art history (roughly 40 years ago) inspired me to read many books on the subject and to visit many museums around the world. Finally, for an alternative look at Gauguin, I would highly recommend viewing Waldemar Januszczak’s 2-hour documentary on Gauguin, which is available on the Internet for free. And, in ‘From Monet To Van Gogh: A History of Impressionism’, Prof Brettell includes a couple lectures largely focused on Gauguin’s ART. --Ten Examples/Further Details-- Examples 1, 2 and 3: In his ‘How To Paint’ class’s Guidebook, Allman discussed ‘cultural appropriation’ and says (as per the Guidebook): “SAMPLING your favorite imagery from a wide variety of sources is a GREAT STRATEGY…find what inspires you and COMBINE it with something else inspiring.” IF the above is Allman’s definition, I would greatly appreciate Prof Allman explaining how Gauguin’s COMBINING various imagery in some of his paintings OF Tahiti and OF Breton does not 100% meet Allman’s own definition of ACCEPTABLE USE??? That said, Allman qualifies the above definition by adding (in his ‘How To Paint’ class): “it is unwise and unethical to claim those images… as YOUR OWN.” Fine. But, what exactly makes Gauguin guilty of “inauthentically appropriating” local culture ‘AS HIS OWN’? This is never made clear by Allman IMHO. Second, in Lecture 15 Allman accuses Gauguin of having a “SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT AND OWNERSHIP WITH EVERY NEW CULTURE HE ENCOUNTERS”. This is because Gauguin travels to various places and paints what he sees in his own unique style, and perhaps because Gauguin’s wears clogs in Brittany??? Third, Allman later says that Gauguin felt “ENTITLED” to see Tahitian women in little to NO CLOTHING. How exactly does Allman know this? Perhaps Gauguin expected it based on preconceptions of what Tahiti would be like, but to use the word “entitled” seems grossly UNFAIR. Example 4: As per Prof Allman, Gauguin went to Panama because he thought it would be an “EDGY AND COOL” thing to do (and “get away with socially unacceptable behavior”)—which IMHO is a patently absurd thing for a professor to say. Some of Allman’s remarks just seem SNARKY. In sharp contrast, according to Waldemar Januszczak, who made a roughly 2-hour documentary on Gauguin, says at least part of Gauguin’s motivation was “to raise money to get back with his wife” by working on the digging of the Panama Canal. Example 5: According to Allman, Gauguin was essentially a SE.X TOURIST of UNDERAGE GIRLS, who ran around the island giving Syphilis to them. Once again, Allman provides no context, just condemnation. For example, the age of consent in FRANCE was 13 at the time, the US was 10-12 years old, and people only lived to roughly 45 back in the late 1880s. And, as per Waldemar Januszczak, “by the time Gauguin reached Tahiti he had had the disease for decades and was NO LONGER CONTAGIOUS.” Example 6: According to Allman (as per Guidebook), Gauguin thought of himself as “THE SAVIOR OF MANKIND”, in reference to a painting where Gauguin supposedly (according to Allman) depicted himself on a cross, called ‘The Yellow Christ’. Allman later added, “the local Breton women are painted as props, looking up at the POOR PAUL CHRIST.” And, a bit later refers to Gauguin as “EGO MANIACAL”. I doubt there is any evidence that Gauguin had a ‘god complex’. Rather, I would strongly assume that there are other and deeper meanings underlying this painting that Allman is not aware of or chooses to ignore. Example 7: Allman claims that ‘Spirit Of The Dead Watching’ is a “RAP.E SCENE”. Allman has again let his imagination, and bias against Gauguin, go wild IMHO. Example 8: Allman fails to mention that Gauguin’s mother was ½ Peruvian and his family traces its roots there to the 17th Century. As per one website: “Gauguin’s great-grandfather was Don Mariano Tristán Moscoso, of the old Spanish noble Tristán Moscoso family established in Arequipa, Peru dating to the 17th century.” While Gauguin seems not to have genetic ties to the Inca, Allman suggests that it is some type of CRIME (of cultural appropriation) just because Gauguin felt some connection to the native peoples of Peru—discounting his family’s long connection there and the fact that Gauguin spent a number of years in Peru as a child—and used that in some of his art. Example 9: Allman suggests that Gauguin “only cared about his WHITE children”. So, apparently, Gauguin is also a RACIST according to Allman—though, once again, Allman has no real evidence of this. Example 10: Prof Allman never allows for the possibility that Gauguin was genuinely/sincerely/desperately seeking a better life—which many long for, especially after realizing that money does not buy happiness—or that Gauguin perhaps wanted to eventually reunite with his family (which Waldemar Januszczak says was the case). On a related note, Allman also suggests that Gauguin moved from Tahiti to one of the Marquesas islands in part because he had heard there was “EXPLOITATION of the locals” there. Where is Allman’s evidence for this terrible insult to Gauguin?
Date published: 2023-05-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Presentation, Wonderful Content As a relative but very enthusiastic newcomer to Art History, I greatly enjoyed this course! Professor Allman is a fantastic speaker. Although I have heard of several of these artists in other contexts and classes, he was always providing new perspectives. Highly recommend this course to anyone interested in Art.
Date published: 2023-05-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enjoyed this course very much My wife and I enjoyed this course very much. While I'm an artist and knew quite a bit of this, my wife isn't an artist. She learned many different things and it gave us an opportunity to talk about my passion (art) after the lectures were over. It was nice to see that Mr. Allman also lived in Kansas City as we live here too.
Date published: 2023-05-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Interesting, but... It's hard to rate this course: it has a lot of good information, but it can be maddening. First, my personal peeve: the great majority of the artists are French or worked in France, but the lecturer doesn't have a clue how to pronounce the French language, and his constant mangling of names, places and titles, is like scraping chalk on a blackboard. As for the content, it is often interesting and offers insights into artists and styles I know little about; however, whole lectures are devoted to history, economics and other topics that are at best tangential. And I learned a lot more than I wanted about the lifestyle of Gauguin. It shows many paintings, but unlike other Great Courses it doesn't tell where they can be seen. At the end it glimpses art from a few other countries, but like other courses I've taken, it barely acknowledges the rest of the world. In sum, I would give this course a guarded recommendation. Meanwhile I await with hope Great Courses on other times, places and artists that have yet to be explored
Date published: 2023-05-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Overview of Post-Impressionism This is an excellent introduction to Post-Impressionism. Allman presents the artists and their works in a clear, conversational manner. He provides the historical setting for each artist, and his anecdotes about the artists are well-chosen and often enlightening. He's open about the times he's offering his own perspective, and this adds to the interest. I'm especially grateful for the new format in recent courses. I continue to appreciate the lectures on art offered by William Kloss, Richard Brettel, and others, which I watched years ago, and I continue to review relevant lectures in preparation for attending exhibits. However, the format has not aged well, and it's time for a change. I do fault the producers of this course for failing to provide Allman with a tutor to coach him in his pronounciation of French. He's not to blame, but his gaffes can be jarring -- for instance, the pronunciation of places names such as Arles and the contracted definite article before a noun with an initial vowel. In addition, I've noted a lack of care with titles in graphics in recent courses. An example in this course occurs at 4:10 in Lecture 13, where the portrait of a bare-headed Vincent is labeled "Self-Portrait in a Straw Hat."
Date published: 2023-05-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from More Please More please from Allman. Could he continue deeper into the 20th C?
Date published: 2023-05-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Course!! Every single lecture is a fantastic learning experience. Professor Allman provides insights into the painters and their techniques and shares paintings and information not usually covered in a review of the Post-Impressionists. And it is so refreshing to be introduced to female artists of the period that we have never heard of. All and all, enlightening, educational, and well worth it!!
Date published: 2023-05-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding --Wirth Repeated viewings One of the best-ever Great Courses lecture series. Professor Allman not only presents a comprehensive overview of the painters and their works during the post-Impressionist era, but contextualizes the artists' paintings in the environment--technological, historical, cultural, and scientific --t in which they worked. Thoroughly engaging! Look forward to more courses from this professor!!
Date published: 2023-05-06
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Post-Impressionism forever changed the language, conception, and methods of painting, producing an astonishing number of the most beloved paintings in the history of art. This course takes you into the dazzling world of artists such as Paul Cézanne; Georges Seurat; Vincent van Gogh, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec; Paul Gauguin; Gustav Klimt, and many others, in a breathtaking and transformative era in painting.


Ricky Allman

Art has a unique way to make us see our world, our times, and ourselves in a different way. It helps us make sense of the world around us.


University of Missouri, Kansas City

Ricky Allman is a Professor of Painting and Drawing at the University of Missouri–Kansas City. He earned an MFA in Painting from the Rhode Island School of Design. His paintings have been exhibited in such American cities as New York, Miami, and Los Angeles and internationally in London, Beijing, and Edinburgh, among other cities. His work has also been featured in many publications, including the Los Angeles Times and Harper’s Magazine. He has received the UMKC Trustees’ Faculty Scholar Award and Charlotte Street’s Visual Artist Award.

By This Professor

How to Paint
Post-Impressionism: The Beginnings of Modern Art
Post-Impressionism: The Beginnings of Modern Art


Where Post-Impressionism Began

01: Where Post-Impressionism Began

Begin with a broad look at the Post-Impressionists, as they constituted a daring new movement in art at a time of massive change. Take note of their diversity, and the themes that connected them. Then learn about the work of the Impressionists who preceded them, who broke free of the strictures of academic art, seeking freedom of expression and an art that reflected life around them.

28 min
The Founder, Paul Cézanne

02: The Founder, Paul Cézanne

Explore the remarkable story of how Paul Cézanne revolutionized painting. In the first of two lectures, enter the world of his youth and provincial upbringing. Trace his artistic education, his critical time in Paris, and the influence of his deep friendship with Camille Pissarro. Learn how, in Pissarro’s company, the darkness of his early works gave way to color, light, and innovative technique.

25 min
Paul Cézanne’s New Way of Seeing

03: Paul Cézanne’s New Way of Seeing

Follow the arc of Cézanne’s career and note his bold originality in distilling the visual field to underlying structures of geometric shape, color, and value. In his great landscapes, still lifes, and images of bathers, study his groundbreaking experimentation with perspective, space, time, and ways of seeing that influenced generations of artists and paved the way for Cubism and modernism.

27 min
How Science and Industry Are Changing Art

04: How Science and Industry Are Changing Art

Learn how the 19th-century Industrial Revolution, new technologies, and the urban transformation of Paris impacted the lives of artists. Grasp how artists made use of new scientific knowledge about color and light. Then, visualize a full day in the life of a Post-Impressionist painter, from visits to cafes and art stores to the daily activities of painting and the lure of Belle Époque nightlife.

26 min
Camille Pissarro’s Experiments in Style

05: Camille Pissarro’s Experiments in Style

Trace the extraordinary life and impact of Pissarro, both as an artist and an influence on other artists. Study the changing approaches and techniques that drove his work, as he became first an Impressionist and then a Post-Impressionist. Take account of his generous nature, his support of other artists, and his openness to new perspectives, all of which characterized his long and fruitful life.

25 min
Georges Seurat’s Vision of the People

06: Georges Seurat’s Vision of the People

Witness how Seurat invented a new way of painting, fusing classical training with optical science and color theory. Explore his long process of experimentation, and his trademark technique of divisionism (pointillism), where the eye blends colors that are applied separately on the canvas. Study his iconic works depicting Belle Époque Paris and note his deep influence on fellow artists.

26 min
Politics and Religion on the Canvas

07: Politics and Religion on the Canvas

Delve into the political and religious upheavals of late 19th-century France, as they impacted the Post-Impressionist artists and their work. Investigate the devastating effects on Paris of the Franco-Prussian War, followed by the Paris Commune and the dramatic tensions surrounding the Alfred Dreyfus affair. Grasp how declining church power and political radicalism affected the making of art.

28 min
Divisionism: Using the Science of Color

08: Divisionism: Using the Science of Color

Discover how a group of dedicated artists used Seurat’s principles of color theory and divisionism to promote political ideals. Learn about the group’s embrace of the utopian goals of anarchism, and how they represented these ideals pictorially in their art, highlighting the works of ringleader Paul Signac, as well as Charles Angrand, Hippolyte Petitjean, and Théo van Rysselberghe.

26 min
Japanese Influence and Les Nabis

09: Japanese Influence and Les Nabis

The Nabis, a fraternity of painters with a spiritual and mystical inclination, were active as a group from 1888 to 1900. In the works of Pierre Bonnard, Édouard Vuillard, Maurice Denis, and others, observe how they sought to find magic and an inner layer of reality in ordinary moments of daily life. Also, take account of the strong influence of Japanese art on the Post-Impressionist artists.

26 min
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s Paris by Night

10: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s Paris by Night

The art of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec is among the most iconic of the Belle Époque and of Post-Impressionism. Trace his artistic education, and his life within the bohemian circles of Montmartre. Witness the development of his unique work, which captured the excitement and sensuality of Paris nightlife, reaching a wide audience through his groundbreaking artistic use of the medium of the poster.

26 min
How Photography Is Transforming Art

11: How Photography Is Transforming Art

Look into the camera’s long influence on art, starting with the camera obscura, and follow the rise of modern photography in the 19th century. Grasp how the advent of photographs freed painters from the need to accurately reproduce reality. Note the ways in which artists made use of the camera, to bring new possibilities to composition, and to capture fleeting moments for use in their work.

25 min
The Singular Talent, Vincent van Gogh

12: The Singular Talent, Vincent van Gogh

Take an intimate look at Vincent van Gogh, and his singular path to artistic greatness. Trace his early life and influences, from his troubled youth to his decision at age 27 to embark on the life of an artist. Follow his rigorous artistic self-education, and the unfolding of his early work, from his brilliant drawings to his first watercolors and oils, highlighting his ambitious The Potato Eaters.

24 min
Van Gogh’s Genius and Tragedy

13: Van Gogh’s Genius and Tragedy

In this second lecture, take the measure of Van Gogh’s genius. Learn about his important years in Paris, Arles, and Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, and the transformation of his work through contact with other artists and new ideas about color and composition. Study his sublime later works, which pulsate with color, light, and emotion. Witness the toll taken by his mental illness, leading to his death by suicide.

27 min
Cloisonnism: Bold Colors and Dark Contours

14: Cloisonnism: Bold Colors and Dark Contours

Cloisonnism takes its name from the French cloisonné, meaning “partitions” or “compartments.” Encounter the artists of this short-lived movement, whose work featured blocks of color separated by clear outlines and sharp edges. Study important paintings in this style, from the eclectic works of Emile Bernard to the bold compositions of Paul Sérusier and the refined beauty of Louis Anquetin.

25 min
Paul Gauguin’s Complicated Legacy

15: Paul Gauguin’s Complicated Legacy

Paul Gauguin was both a major painter and a troubling figure. Travel the arc of his artistic life, and the evolution of his painting from his compelling early works to his late, masterful Tahitian scenes. Contrast the greatness of his art with his personal behavior: his neglect of family, serial liaisons with teenage girls, self-mythologizing, and misrepresentation of foreign cultures in his art.

28 min
Suzanne Valadon’s Rebellious Vision

16: Suzanne Valadon’s Rebellious Vision

Uncover the remarkable art of Suzanne Valadon, a lesser-known yet important Post-Impressionist. Track her journey from early fame as a model for major artists to becoming a painter herself, penetrating a male-dominated world and earning the deep respect of her colleagues. Delve into the great qualities of her work, which challenged key tropes of Western art, and learn why she was forgotten.

26 min
How Philosophy and Culture Are Shaping Art

17: How Philosophy and Culture Are Shaping Art

Grasp how the ideas of Hegel, Descartes, Nietzsche, and Freud influenced the Post-Impressionists’ conception of the nature and purpose of art, impacting the focus of their work. Also, learn about pop culture trends that influenced the Post-Impressionists, such as the vogues for absinthe, spiritualism and the occult, magic shows, circuses, theatrical spectacle, and world fairs.

29 min
Symbolism: Dreams and Metaphors

18: Symbolism: Dreams and Metaphors

The Symbolists aimed to express deeper truths through a novel use of symbol, metaphor, and emotion. In the arresting and fantasy-like imagery of James Ensor, Fernand Khnopff, Evelyn de Morgan, and Félicien Rops, see how these artists use motifs of dreams, myth, horror, sex, and fantastic creatures to unsettle and provoke viewers, critique modern society, and explore hidden aspects of our world.

27 min
Odilon Redon’s Fantastic Worlds

19: Odilon Redon’s Fantastic Worlds

Redon, one of art’s great eccentrics, lived to see the admiration of his colleagues and the public during his lifetime. Study his influences, and his bizarre and fantastic drawings, revealing a dark and melancholy mindset. Note the transformation of his work into shimmering color, warmth, and sensual richness. View the lush textures of his later paintings, encompassing reality, myth, and fantasy.

27 min
Henri Rousseau’s Jungles of the Mind

20: Henri Rousseau’s Jungles of the Mind

Assess the qualities of Rousseau’s singular style, visually akin to folk or “primitivist” art, yet imbued with his own unusual and idiosyncratic sensibility. Witness how, despite fundamental technical errors and lack of any artistic training, he walked his own path in his unusual depictions of jungles, landscapes, and imaginative imagery, creating paintings of tremendous and enduring impact.

25 min
Post-Impressionism beyond France

21: Post-Impressionism beyond France

Though the Post-Impressionist movement was concentrated in France, its influence on artists spread far beyond. View outstanding works by painters from England, Argentina, the United States, Sweden, and Ukraine. Note the time lag in the diffusion of artistic knowledge, and how artists in other countries adapted the thinking and techniques of Post-Impressionism to their own cultures and priorities.

28 min
Edvard Munch’s Emotional Palette

22: Edvard Munch’s Emotional Palette

Influenced by the French Post-Impressionists, as well as by German art, Edvard Munch forged a style that was uniquely his own. Observe how he channeled family tragedy and his own angst into dreamlike imagery that explores people’s inner experience. Note the reflection of his personal life in his work; his later change to brighter, more hopeful works; and his ultimate acclaim and honor as an artist.

27 min
Gustav Klimt’s Journey to Art Nouveau

23: Gustav Klimt’s Journey to Art Nouveau

Travel the remarkable trajectory of Klimt, a phenomenal talent with many influences, from prodigious classical murals to radiant society portraits to his famous glittering, golden images. Take account of his long fascination with portraying women, and his trademark melding of intense patterning, gold leaf and striking colors, myth, and metaphor, within richly imaginative compositions.

27 min
Why Post-Impressionism Matters

24: Why Post-Impressionism Matters

Complete the course with a look at when Post-Impressionism ended, and at the artists who embody the transition from Post-Impressionism to modern art. Look first at Cubism, which laid the foundations for abstraction, and the Fauves, with their dramatic and non-realistic use of color. Finish with the trailblazing works of Juan Gris, Franz Marc, Joseph Stella, Wassily Kandinsky, and Kazimir Malevich.

36 min