Impressionism and Art Nouveau

The second half of the 19th century spawned a wide diversity of stylistic trends in painting and brought forth a number of highly distinctive personalities. The very fact that so many different terms are associated with this period- Salon painting, Impressionism, Pointillism, Historicism, Pre-Raphaelites, Jugenstil, Art Nouveau and Belle Epoque- bears witness to the seer variety of artistic movements.

In France, inspired by the revolutionary painting of Manet, the Impressionists shook of the fetters of a rigid and outmoded artistic canon and determined the subject-matter and compositional organization of their paintings, themselves; Monet and Renoir, Pissarro and Sisley painted what they wanted as they wanted. Others soon followed suit, including Liebermann and Corinth in Germany and Cassatt and Chase in the USA.

The Pre-Raphaelites in England, Millais and Rossetti among them, called for a more profound and reflective intellectual approach to art and paved the way for the decoratively ornamental style known as Art Nouveau and its German- Austrian equivalent, Jugendstil, which was embodied in its purest form by the work of Klimt, while Symbolists like Moreau conjured up visions from the world of dreams and the realms of the imagination.

Dynamic brushwork and a highly expressive handling of colour are the predominant features of Van Gogh’s paintings. Gauguin’s images of the South Seas represent a journey of discovery to a more primeval life, while Cézanne’s autonomy of form and colour brought him widespread recognition as the father of modern art.