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.
Post-Impressionism: The Beginnings of Modern Art
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.