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Artists Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Pierre-Auguste Renoir

French Draftsman and Painter

Movement: Impressionism

Born: February 25, 1841 - Limoges, France

Died: December 3, 1919 - Cagnes-sur-Mer, France

Quotes

"Go and see what others have produced, but never copy anything except nature. You would be trying to enter into a temperament that is not yours and nothing that you would do would have any character."
Pierre-Auguste Renoir
"An artist, under pain of oblivion, must have confidence in himself, and listen only to his real master: Nature."
Pierre-Auguste Renoir
"It took me twenty years to discover painting: twenty years looking at nature, and above all, going to the Louvre."
Pierre-Auguste Renoir
"Work lovingly done is the secret of all order and all happiness."
Pierre-Auguste Renoir
"Shall I tell you what I think are the two qualities of a work of art? First, it must be indescribable, and second, it must be inimitable."
Pierre-Auguste Renoir
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"Why shouldn't art be pretty? There are enough unpleasant things in the world."

Synopsis

Pierre-Auguste Renoir was a French Impressionist painter whose eye for beauty made him one of the movement's most popular practitioners. He is best known for his paintings of bustling Parisian modernity and leisure in the last three decades of the nineteenth century. Though celebrated as a colorist with a keen eye for capturing the movement of light and shadow, Renoir started to explore Renaissance painting in the middle of his career, which led him to integrate more line and composition into his mature works and create some of his era's most timeless canvases.

Key Ideas

Working alongside Claude Monet, Renoir was essential to developing Impressionist style in the late 1860s, but there is a decidedly human element to his work that sets him apart. Renoir had a brilliant eye for both intimate domesticity and the day's fashions, and his images of content families and well-dressed Parisian pleasure seekers created a bridge from Impressionism's more experimental aims to a modern, middle-class art public.
Renoir was the first Impressionist to perceive the potential limitations of an art based primarily on optical sensation and light effects. Though his discoveries in this field would always remain integral to his art, he reasserted the necessity of composition and underlying structure in modern painting, achieving in his mature work a structured, monumental style that acknowledged the strengths of High Renaissance art.
Renoir's example became indispensible for the major French movements of high modernism: Fauvism and Cubism. Like Renoir, the progenitors of these styles focused on issues of color, composition, and depth rather than quick sketches of individual moments. His composed, vivid paintings created a vital bridge from earlier colorists like Raphael, Peter Paul Rubens, Jean-Antoine Watteau, and Eugène Delacroix to the twentieth-century giants Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso.

Most Important Art

The Umbrellas (1881)
Renoir occupies an important place in the history of modern art for being the first to introduce underlying structure into the Impressionist mode of vision. In doing so, he set the stage for the Post-Impressionist Paul Cézanne and for twentieth-century movements like Cubism that would deeply analyze form, depth, and perspective in a modern manner. The Umbrellas is a paradigmatic painting in that conversation, as Renoir painted it as an Impressionist canvas in 1881 before reworking it in 1886 with the underpinnings of classical composition he had seen on trips to view Old Master painting in Italy. The finished canvas, then, brings Impressionism's experiments with color and light into cooperation with stronger line and an emphasis on geometric forms, evident in the vivid, brushy trees in the background, the reflections of natural blues and greens onto the dress of the young woman on the left, and the intense interplay of eye contact. The result is a beautifully worked image that captures a temporary moment of being caught in the rain, as a gentleman, presumably taken with the beauty of the young woman, leans in to offer her shelter under his umbrella.
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Biography

Childhood

Pierre-Auguste Renoir was born into a working class family in Limoges, a city in the central west region of France. The area is historically significant as the center of French porcelain production, reaching that status during the nineteenth century. Fittingly, Renoir's first artistic job, during his teens, was as a painter in one of the town's porcelain factories. The son of a tailor and a seamstress, Renoir had a steady hand and a talent for decorative effect, which earned him praise from his employers and brought him to the attention of a growing customer base, including a number of wealthy patrons for whom he painted picture hangings and decorations for fans and other luxury objects. These early successes fed his desire to leave the factory and pursue fine arts painting.

To compensate for the limited training he was receiving in Limoges, in 1860 Renoir began making frequent trips to visit the Louvre in Paris to study the work of the French Rococo masters Jean-Antoine Watteau, Jean-Honore Fragonard, and François Boucher, and the Romantic painter Eugène Delacroix. Though Delacroix and the Rococo painters worked nearly a century apart, Renoir recognized similarities in their soft, loose handling of paint, which showed individual brushstrokes, and their embrace of color and movement rather than the Classical clarity of carefully composed form.

Early Training

Portrait of Auguste Renoir by Frederic Bazille (1867)

In 1862, Renoir began his formal training under Charles Gleyre, a Swiss-born academic painter who instructed a number of talented painters, among them Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, and Frédéric Bazille, three of Renoir's future Impressionist colleagues with whom he became close friends upon entering Gleyre's Paris studio.

During their training, Renoir and his new friends would venture into the scenic forest of Fontainebleau to engage in plein air painting. However, unlike Monet and Sisley, Renoir always maintained a penchant for the studio and for painting more traditional portraiture in the style of the eighteenth-century French masters he so admired. Fontainebleau became a favorite painting spot of Renoir's and one he visited frequently, thanks in part to his friend Jules Le Coeur, an admirer of his art who owned a house in Bourron-Marlotte, a commune on the forest's southern border. In 1865, Le Coeur introduced Renoir to the seventeen-year-old Lise Tréhot, who became Renoir's lover and favorite model for several years. Tréhot sat for dozens of portraits, including two in 1867: Diana the Huntress, which portrayed her as a Greek goddess a la a Rococo portrait, and Lise with a Parasol, which was received favorably at the French Salon of 1868. Well aware of the Salon's strict standards, Renoir executed these portraits in a conventional compositional style, combining smooth lines and meticulous coloration with a matter-of-fact naturalism reminiscent of the Realist painter Gustave Courbet, whom he admired.

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Pierre-Auguste Renoir Biography Continues

During the summer of 1869, Renoir and Monet spent two months painting at La Grenouillère, a lakeside boating resort for the French middle class located just outside of Paris. Indeed, the case can be made that Renoir and Monet sowed the seeds of Impressionism at La Grenouillere. It was here that both men began to use broad brushstrokes to capture momentary scenes with a sketch-like looseness of feel, deftly capturing the water's natural movement and reflective effect on light.

Mature Period

Pierre-Auguste Renoir Photo

Immediately following the brief but tumultuous Franco-Prussian War (in which Renoir fought) and the occupation of the French Commune in 1871, Renoir's early success began to take a turn for the worse. Rejections from the Salon far outnumbered acceptances, due in no small part to the "unfinished" quality his newer work assumed. His fortunes reached a point where Renoir was faced with the choice of either paying models or buying paint. While others of his colleagues like Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro had ceased to do so, Renoir continued submitting work to the Salon up until 1873, holding on to the belief that acceptance was a necessary yardstick for success. As Petra Chu notes in Nineteenth-Century European Art: "As late as 1881, the Impressionist painter Auguste Renoir wrote to his dealer [Paul] Durand-Ruel: 'In Paris, there are barely fifteen collectors capable of liking a painter without the backing of the Salon. And there are another eighty thousand who won't buy so much as a postcard unless the painter exhibits there.'" In addition, his friendship with the Le Coeur family soured in 1874, leaving Renoir without that source of patronage and the ability to stay in their home near Fontainebleau.

Following the 1873 Salon, in which the Impressionists' canvases were largely panned, Renoir and his cohorts began planning an independent exhibition of their works, free from the aesthetic constraints of the Salon and its jury system. The first Impressionist group show was held on April 15, 1874. While Renoir sold few works as a result of the show, it brought him to the attention of the collector Victor Chocquet, whose portrait he would paint and who would become something of a financial savior during this period.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir when he was appoximately 34 years old

By the time of the fourth Impressionist exhibition in 1878, Renoir quietly abstained. He had discovered financial independence thanks to regular portrait commissions (which in turn led to further success in the Salon) and had become disenchanted with the ideology of spontaneity that he felt had consumed the group. Shortly after disassociating himself from the very group of artists he helped found, Renoir traveled to Italy for the first time, a trip enabled by a financial deal he had struck with the dealer Paul Durand-Ruel. During this sojourn, he came of the opinion that Impressionism lacked the structural underpinnings that had produced the great art of the Renaissance masters like Raphael. As he wrote to the dealer Ambroise Vollard later in his life, "by the early 1880s, he felt that he had 'reached the end of Impressionism, and could neither paint nor draw.'"

This pilgrimage, then, was a motivation for Renoir to move away from the loose, incidental quality of Impressionism toward more Classical ideas of draftsmanship, composition, and modeling. This shift had, to an extent, already begun: Renoir produced the iconic Luncheon of the Boating Party between 1880 and 1881, immediately before leaving France, and it shows an adjustment of his painterly techniques toward greater compositional unity. The focus of his mature work would no longer be exclusively on pioneering new modes of expressing the movement and color of light and nature. Rather, he looked to the coloration of the Rococo and late Renaissance periods, tendencies that were supported by further trips to Italy, Spain, and England.

Late Years and Death

As the turn of the century approached, now married and with three sons (the last born in 1901), Renoir continued to produce work at an impressive rate, despite his continually failing health. An injury to his right arm from a bicycle accident had left him with severe arthritis, and rheumatism plagued his left eye. By 1910, he was mostly relegated to a wheelchair and with bandages around his hands, making painting a great challenge. The family purchased a home in Cagnes-sur-Mer in the south of France, which gave Renoir periodic relief from his pains with its dry and mild climate.

In the previous decade, Renoir had befriended the art dealer Vollard, who became both an important patron and a trusted advisor to the artist when it came to choosing subject matter. In 1913, Vollard, well aware of Renoir's physical limitations, made the bold suggestion that he attempt sculpture, introducing him to the Catalan-born sculptor Richard Guino. Despite his physical ailments, Renoir was able to complete several successful sculptures during his collaboration with Guino, who largely worked with clay.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir Portrait

Influenced by his earlier trips to Spain to see the works of Francisco Goya, Renoir infused his late paintings with an increasingly monumental style. While his fellow Impressionists Claude Monet and Edgar Degas pursued the effects of light nearly to the brink of abstraction later in their careers, Renoir gained a solid, almost sculptural quality in the figures and landscapes he painted during the twilight of his career.

In the winter of 1919, Renoir suffered a heart attack at his home in Cagnes-sur-Mer. Shortly after, he passed away on December 3, 1919, with his sons by his side and several of his works hanging in the Louvre among the French masters he once went there to study.


Legacy

It could be argued that Renoir and his colleague Monet are to Impressionism as Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque are to Cubism: their experiments in painting together created an entirely modern visual idiom and marked off the artistic territory that the movement would grow to inhabit in the following decades.

He was also the first among his colleagues to recognize the cul-de-sac that Impressionism presented. Though Paul Cézanne is typically credited for the attempt "to make of Impressionism something solid and lasting like the art of the museums," this crisis in the movement was first met head-on by Renoir. His well-documented reintroduction of composition, outline, and modeling into his painting never completely erased the radical reassessment of color he helped theorize alongside Monet. Ultimately, his combination of modernity and tradition was highly influential on a next generation of artists including Pierre Bonnard, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Maurice Denis, all of whom collected his work.

Influences and Connections

Influences on artist

Artists, Friends, Movements

Influenced by artist

Artists, Friends, Movements

Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Interactive chart with Pierre-Auguste Renoir's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
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View Influences Chart

Artists

Raphael
Jean-Antoine Watteau
Francisco Goya
Eugène Delacroix
Gustave Courbet

Friends

Claude Monet
Alfred Sisley
Frédéric Bazille

Movements

Renaissance
Realism
Romanticism
Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Years Worked: 1862-1919

Artists

Mary Cassatt
Paul Cézanne
Henri Matisse
Pablo Picasso

Friends

Claude Monet
Victor Chocquet
Gustave Caillebotte
Paul Durand-Ruel

Movements

Impressionism
Post-Impressionism
Cubism



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Useful Resources on Pierre-Auguste Renoir

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The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing of this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.
biography
Renoir

By Anne Distel

Renoir

By Peter H. Feist

Pierre-Auguste Renoir

By Mike Venezia

More Interesting Books about Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Critic Tries to Appreciate Renoir

By Kenneth Baker
The San Francisco Chronicle
April 24, 2014

How This Renoir Used to Look

By Kenneth Chang
The New York Times
April 20, 2014

Renoir in Britain: His Fleeting Impression

By Alastair Smart
The Telegraph
February 1, 2014

A Muse to the Father, and a Wife to the Son

By Stephen Holden
The New York Times
March 28, 2013

More Interesting Articles about Pierre-Auguste Renoir
"Painting 'Renoir' in Finely Detailed Strokes

By Susan Stamberg
NPR
April 11, 2013

in pop culture
Renoir (2012)

Dramatic motion picture based on the life of Pierre-Auguste Renoir, directed by Gilles Bourdos

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Justin Wolf

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Justin Wolf
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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Impressionism
Impressionism
Impressionism
A movement in painting that first surfaced in France in the 1860s, it sought new ways to describe effects of light and movement, often using rich colors. The Impressionists were drawn to modern life and often painted the city, but they also captured landscapes and scenes of middle-class leisure-taking in the suburbs.
TheArtStory: Impressionism
Claude Monet
Claude Monet
Claude Monet
Claude Monet was a French artist who helped pioneer the painterly effects and emphasis on light, atmosphere, and plein air technique that became hallmarks of Impressionism. He is especially known for his series of haystacks and cathedrals at different times of day, and for his late Waterlilies.
TheArtStory: Claude Monet
Fauvism
Fauvism
Fauvism
Fauvism was an early twentieth-century art movement founded by Henri Matisse and André Derain. Labeled as "wild beasts", Fauve artists favored vibrant colors and winding gestural strokes across the canvas.
TheArtStory: Fauvism
Cubism
Cubism
Cubism
Cubism was developed by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque between 1907-1911, and it continued to be highly influential long after its decline. This classic phase has two stages: 'Analytic', in which forms seem to be 'analyzed' and fragmented; and 'Synthetic', in which pre-existing materials such as newspaper and wood veneer are collaged to the surface of the canvas.
TheArtStory: Cubism
Raphael
Raphael
Raphael
Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, better known as Raphael, was an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance. He is celebrated for the perfection and grace of his paintings and drawings. Together with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, he forms the traditional trinity of great masters of that period.
Raphael
Peter Paul Rubens
Peter Paul Rubens
Peter Paul Rubens
Peter Paul Rubens was a seventeenth-century Baroque artist who painted richly-toned allegories, history cycles, and religious scenes. His works are often populated by fleshy female nudes and figures in dramatic, twisting postures.
Peter Paul Rubens
Jean-Antoine Watteau
Jean-Antoine Watteau
Jean-Antoine Watteau
Jean-Antoine Watteau was an eighteenth century French painter known for his light-hearted scenes of elegant upper-class life. Watteau's - fetes galantes - as his paintings were called, influenced many artists, leading them to re-explore color and movement.
Jean-Antoine Watteau
Eugène Delacroix
Eugène Delacroix
Eugène Delacroix
Eugène Delacroix was a mid-nineteenth-century French painter and pioneer of European Modernist painting. Known primarily as a Romantic, Delacroix's paintings were passionate in their depictions of love, war and human sensuality, earning the artist both praise and controversy in his time. His preoccupation with color-induced optical effects and use of expressive brushstrokes were crucial influences on Impressionism and Pointillism.
Eugène Delacroix
Henri Matisse
Henri Matisse
Henri Matisse
Henri Matisse was a French painter and sculptor who helped forge modern art. From his early Fauvist works to his late cutouts, he emphasized expansive fields of color, the expressive potential of gesture, and the sensuality inherent in art-making.
TheArtStory: Henri Matisse
Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso
Picasso dominated European painting in the first half of the last century, and remains perhaps the century's most important, prolifically inventive, and versatile artist. Alongside Georges Braque, he pioneered Cubism. He also made significant contributions to Surrealist painting and media such as collage, welded sculpture, and ceramics.
TheArtStory: Pablo Picasso
Rococo
Rococo
Rococo
Rococo was a far reaching artistic movement during eighteenth-century France, following the Baroque period, comprised of several mediums including architecture, painting, sculpture, music, interior design, landscape design, and theater. The era is mostly associated with ornate decoration inspired by florid designs and other natural forms. Among the movement's most celebrated artists include the painters Antoine Watteau and Jean-Honoré Fragonard.
Rococo
Jean-Honore Fragonard
Jean-Honore Fragonard
Jean-Honore Fragonard
Jean-Honore Fragonard was an eighteenth century French painter whose works epitomized the Rococo style of art. His paintings were pretty, but infamous for their undercurrent of eroticism.
Jean-Honore Fragonard
Francois Boucher
Francois Boucher
Francois Boucher
Francois Boucher was a French Rococo painter, and one of the most popular artists of the eighteenth century. He painted idyllic tableaus of classical mythology, pastoral landscapes, and genre scenes. Boucher was a favorite of Louis XV's mistress, Madame de Pompadour, for whom he did several portraits.
Francois Boucher
Romanticism
Romanticism
Romanticism
Romanticism was a nineteenth-century movement that celebrated the powers of emotion and intuition over rational analysis or classical ideals. Romantic artists emphasized awe, beauty, and the sublime in their works, which frequently charted the darker or chaotic sides of human life.
Romanticism
Classicism
Classicism
Classicism
Classicism refers to the traditions, canons and aesthetics of ancient Greece and Rome. In the arts, it is used to describe work created during the historic Classical era. It generally evokes the adherence to ideals rather than personal expression.
Classicism
Alfred Sisley
Alfred Sisley
Alfred Sisley
Alfred Sisley was an English Impressionist landscape painter who spent much of his life working in France. As an enthusiast of plein air painting, Sisley was among the group of artists that included Monet, Renoir and Pissarro who dedicated themselves to capturing the transient effects of sunlight. He was a true Impressionist and committed landscape painter who never deviated from this style or subject into figurative work like many of his contemporaries.
TheArtStory: Alfred Sisley
Frédéric Bazille
Frédéric Bazille
Frédéric Bazille
Frédéric Bazille was an Impressionist and Realist painter who came from a wealthy background and was able to help his fellow artists, including Monet, Sisley, and Manet with money and materials. His career and life were cut short, dying in battle during the Franco-Prussian War at just 29 years old.
TheArtStory: Frédéric Bazille
Realism
Realism
Realism
Realism is an approach to art that stresses the naturalistic representation of things, the look of objects and figures in ordinary life. It emerged as a distinct movement in the mid-nineteenth century, in opposition to the idealistic, sometimes mythical subjects that were then popular, but it can be traced back to sixteenth-century Dutch art and forward into twentieth-century styles such as Social Realism.
TheArtStory: Realism
Gustave Courbet
Gustave Courbet
Gustave Courbet
Gustave Courbet was a French painter and chief figure in the Realist movement of the mid-nineteenth century. His paintings often contained an emotional bleakness, and were praised for their precision and use of light. Along with Delacroix, Courbet was a key influence on the Impressionists.
TheArtStory: Gustave Courbet
Camille Pissarro
Camille Pissarro
Camille Pissarro
Camille Pissarro was a French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painter. Known as the "Father of Impressionism," he used his own painterly style to depict urban daily life, landscapes, and rural scenes.
TheArtStory: Camille Pissarro
Francisco Goya
Francisco Goya
Francisco Goya
Francisco Goya was an eighteenth-century Spanish painter, and is considered by many to be "the father of modern painting." Informed by the Baroque style and the Classicists, Goya's art was part of the Romanticism movement, but also contained provocative elements such as social critiques, nudes, war, and allegories of death. He is considered a major influence on the works of Manet, Picasso, and Dali.
TheArtStory: Francisco Goya
Edgar Degas
Edgar Degas
Edgar Degas
Edgar Degas was a French Impressionist painter, printmaker and sculptor with an extraordinarily long career from the mid-nineteenth century until after WWI. As one of the original group of Impressionists, although he preferred to be called a Realist, he traveled widely and employed the use of photography in his creative process. He is most renowned for his painting and drawings of ballet dancers in rehearsal and performances in the theatre.
TheArtStory: Edgar Degas
Georges Braque
Georges Braque
Georges Braque
Georges Braque was a modern French painter who, along with Pablo Picasso, developed analytic Cubism and Cubist collage in the early twentieth century.
TheArtStory: Georges Braque
Paul Cézanne
Paul Cézanne
Paul Cézanne
Paul Cézanne was an influential French Post-Impressionist painter whose depictions of the natural world, based on internal geometric planes, paved the way for Cubism and later modern art movements.
TheArtStory: Paul Cézanne
Pierre Bonnard
Pierre Bonnard
Pierre Bonnard
The French artist Pierre Bonnard, although dismissed as old-fashioned by some of the avant-garde in his lifetime, was esteemed by contemporary colorists like Matisse. A member of the Nabis group in his youth, his innovative paintings play with light, decorative surfaces, and Impressionist techniques.
TheArtStory: Pierre Bonnard
Maurice Denis
Maurice Denis
Maurice Denis
Maurice Denis was a French painter and writer, recognized as an important member of the Symbolist and Les Nabis movements. A pioneering theorist who insisted on the flatness of the picture plane, Denis created brightly colored Post-Impressionist works that profoundly influenced the next generation of modern artists.
Maurice Denis
Renaissance
Renaissance
Renaissance
In the Renaissance, artists rediscovered techniques like rational space, three-point perspective, and plastic forms. Paintings frequently emphasized the human figure, allegory, classical mythology, and Christian themes.
Renaissance
Mary Cassatt
Mary Cassatt
Mary Cassatt
Mary Cassatt was an American painter and printmaker active in France in the late nineteenth century. She was closely associated with Impressionism, and her signature subjects were intimate, domestic scenes of women, mothers, and children.
TheArtStory: Mary Cassatt
Victor Chocquet
Victor Chocquet
Victor Chocquet
Victor Chocquet was a French art collector and patron in the late nineteenth century. After visiting a show of Impressionist paintings in 1875, Chocquet commissioned paintings by Renoir and Cézanne, among others, and in the process became very wealthy through his large collections of Impressionist works.
Victor Chocquet
Gustave Caillebotte
Gustave Caillebotte
Gustave Caillebotte
Gustave Caillebotte was a nineteenth-century French painter and one of the Impressionist artists, though his style resembled Realism more than Impressionism. Caillebotte was also an early practitioner of using photography for composing his images, a prominent art patron, and an outspoken supporter of other Impressionists like Pissarro, Monet, and Renoir. His vast wealth also allowed Caillebotte to fund several exhibitions of Impressionist art, and to convince the Louvre to acquire many important works.
TheArtStory: Gustave Caillebotte
Paul Durand-Ruel
Paul Durand-Ruel
Paul Durand-Ruel
Paul Durand-Ruel was a French art dealer who became the first champion of the Impressionists. His gallery in Bond St showed Monet, Renoir and others to the art world of London, and then further afield in the United States. He was known to support his artists through solo exhibitions and stipends.
Paul Durand-Ruel
Post-Impressionism
Post-Impressionism
Post-Impressionism
Post-Impressionism refers to a number of styles that emerged in reaction to Impressionism in the 1880s. The movement encompassed Symbolism and Neo-Impressionism before ceding to Fauvism around 1905. Its artists turned away from effects of light and atmosphere to explore new avenues such as color theory and personal feeling, often using colors and forms in intense and expressive ways.
TheArtStory: Post-Impressionism
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