The Impressionists aimed to capture the transience of nature, of a moment in time. Working outside ('en plein air') was a fundamental principle of Impressionism along with a need to be in tune with the contemporary world and the fleeting experiences of urban life. Impressionist artists achieved sparkling effects, not by broken tones and contrasts, but by a division of colour, applying the paint in short, fragmented brushstrokes. With its emphasis on technique over subject matter, Impressionism paved the way for modern art movements.
The term ‘Post-Impressionism’ was coined in 1910 by the British critic Roger Fry, when he included works by Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh and others in an exhibition at the progressive Grafton Galleries in London. According to Fry, the Post-Impressionists were united by their emphasis on the inner world of ideas, feelings and subjectivity, rather than outer reality. This change in the artists’ work occurred around the mid- to late-1880s: while Gauguin began to emphasise the importance of painting from the imagination, Van Gogh developed a highly expressive style, using colour to explore his own, deep-seated emotions. By the early 1890s even mainstream Impressionist artists such Claude Monet began to adopt a more personal response to the natural world.
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Frances Fowle, Curator of French art at the National Galleries of Scotland and author of The Impressionist Era: The Story of Scotland’s French Masterpieces, introduces our display of Impressionism and Post Impressionism at the Scottish National Gallery.
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