Post-Impressionism (1880-1930)

La chambre de Van Gogh à Arles (Van Gogh's Bedroom in Arles) (1889) by Vincent van Gogh, in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris (Photo Public Domain)
La chambre de Van Gogh à Arles (Van Gogh's Bedroom in Arles) (1889) by Vincent van Gogh, in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris

Picasso, Van Gogh, Matisse, Toulouse Lautrec—and Pointillism, fauvism, Cubism and other early 20C movements

Many of the experimental French artists of the late 19th century were not actually technically Impressionists—though many were their friends and moved in and out of each other's circles. Their smaller movements or individual styles are usually lumped together as "Post-Impressionist."

You'll find the best examples of their works at Paris's Musée d'Orsay; though you'll find Matisse and the Cubists mentioned below in the Pompidou instead.

Artists & examples of Post-Impressionist art in France

Cézanne (1839-1906) may have adopted the short brushstrokes (which he eventually developed into a mosaic of colored rectangles), love of landscape, and light color palate of his Impressionist friends, but he was more formal and deliberate about it, studying his predecessors and seeking to give his modern art a monumentality and permanence, even if the subjects were simple (still lifes, portraits, and focused landscapes).

Gauguin (1848-1903) could never settle himself or his work, trying Brittany first, where he developed sythetism (black outlines around solid colors), and later hopping around the South Pacific, where he was inspired by local styles and colors.

Seurat (1859-91), Signac (1863-1935), and Pissaro together developed divisionism and its more formal cousin pointillism—rather than mixing, say, yellow and blue paint together to make green, they applied tiny dots of yellow and blue right next to each other so that the viewer's eye mixes them together to make green (TV sets and billboards use the same technique).

Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) is most famous for his work with thinned down oils to create paintings and posters of wispy, fluid lines anticipating Art Nouveau and often depicting the Bohemian life of Paris (dance halls, cafes, top-hatted patrons of fancy parties).

Van Gogh (1853-90) was Dutch but spent most of his tortured artistic career in France. He combined divisionism, synthetism, and a touch of Japanese influence, and painted with thick, short strokes. He was never particularly accepted by any artistic circle, and the most popular painter in the world today (his paintings auction for record sums, and he sells more postcards and posters than any other artist) sold only one painting in his short life.

Matisse (1869-1954) and friends took a hint from sythetism and added wild colors and strong patterns to create Fauvism ("wild beasts"). Matisse continued exploring these themes even when most were turning to Cubism, and later in life (with failing health) began assembling brightly colored collages of paper cutouts.

Braque (1882-1963) and Spanish-born Picasso (1881-1973) decided to try and paint objects from all points of view at once, accepting that the canvas is flat and merely representing all visible angles by painting them adjacent to each other rather than using optical tricks like perspective to fool viewers into seeing three dimensions. The fractured, imploding-looking result was called Cubism, and was expanded upon by the likes of Léger (1881-1955) and the Spaniard Gris (1887-1927), while Braque started to collage in bits of paper and cardboard, and Picasso moved on to other styles (you can see all of his periods at museums dedicated to him in Paris, Antibes, and Vallauris, where Picasso revived the ceramics industry).

Chagall (1889-1985) is hard to pin down, a Hasidic Jew who traveled widely in Europe, the U.S., Mexico, and Israel. His art started from Cubism and picked up inspiration everywhere to fuel an idiosyncratic, brightly colored, allegorical, often whimsical style. There's a museum devoted to him in Vence and another in Nice, plus several stained glass windows in the Reims cathedral and the ceiling of Paris's Opera Garnier.

Where to find Post-Impressionist art in France

Les Coquelicots (Poppy Field) (1873) by Claude Monet (Photo Public Domain)
Musée d'Orsay
Paris: Eiffel Tower

Did someone say "Impressionists"? The Orsay Museum houses the world's largest collection of Impressionist art

The Pompidou is not usually this uncrowded; I guess they cleared the rooms so President Barack Obama could admire the works in peace (Photo by Pete Souza)
The Pompidou
Paris: Hôtel de Ville

The Centre George Pompidou (sometimes called the Beaubourg) is Paris's premier modern art museum

Le Penseur (The Thinker) in the garden of the Rodin Museum of Paris (Photo by Nicholas Boos)
Rodin Museum
Paris: Eiffel Tower

Rodin's Paris studio is one of the world's greatest small museums, filled with and surrounded by the master's sculptures

Self-portrait (1906) by Pablo Picasso (Photo Public Domain)
Picasso Museum
Paris: Marais

The Picasso Museum of Paris

One of the two oval Monet Waterlilies rooms in the basement of L'Orangerie (Photo by fmpgoh)
Paris: Louvre

Be surrounded by 360º of Monet Waterlillies

Impression, sol levant (Impression, Sunrise) (1872) by Claude Monet—the painting that inadvertently lent its name to the artistic movement of Impressionism (Photo Public Domain)
Musée Marmottan-Monet
Paris: Bois de Boulogne

One hundred Monets—and other Impressionist works—including the ur-Impressionist painting, Impression, sol levant

The third floor studio (which was, in fact, Moreau's working studio) (Photo courtesy of the Musée Gustave Moreau)
Musée Gustave Moreau
Paris: Opéra (9eme)

Museum devoted to a frankly forgettable 19th-century symbolist painter


The Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris is Paris' (free) Municipal Museum of Modern Art


Post-Impressionist artists with works in France

Georges Braque, 1908, photograph published in Gelett Burgess, The Wild Men of Paris, Architectural Record, May 1910 (Photo by anonymous)

A cofounder of Cubism

Self-Portrait (c. 1875) of Paul Cézanne, in the Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo courtesy of the Musée d

A great Post-Impressionism French painter of lovely landscapes, portraits, and still-lifes

Photograph of Marc Chagall (1920) by Pierre Choumoff (Photo by Pierre Choumoff)

A 20C artist of joyful, whimsical, colorful works

Self Portrait (1889) by Paul Gauguin, in the Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo courtesy of the Musée d

The Post-Impressionist who went native in the South Pacific

Self Portrait (1918) by Henri Matisse, in the Musée Départemental Henri Matisse, Le Cateau-Cambrésis, France (Photo courtesy of the Musée Départemental Henri Matisse)

The great early 20C French artist took post-Impressionism into the colorful realms of fauvism

Pablo Picasso self-portraits at age 15 (1896), 25 (1907), and 89 (1971) (Photo collage courtesy of Twisted Sifter)

A found of Cubism and one of the greatest artists of the 20C

Self Portrait (1903) by Camille Pissarro, in the Tate Britain, London (Photo courtesy of Tate Britain)

An Impressionist turned pointillist—and great teacher of other painters

Portrait of Georges Seurat in 1888 (Photo by Unknown)

The post-Impressionist famous for making tiny dots meld into an image

"Mr. Toulouse paints Mr. Lautrec," a fun trick photographic portrait c. 1891 (Photo by Maurice Guibert)

A louche, Bohemian painter of tavern and theatre scenes

Self Portrait (1889) by Vincent van Gogh, in the Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo courtesy of the Musée d

A tortured post-Impressionist whom history has deemed one of the greatest painters of all time