Arts & Culture

Post-Impressionism @ MoMA

These artworks and artists can be found in and many are featured in the MoMA Learning website:

From Early in his career, Cézanne focused on violent and dark subject matter, but in the 1870s he turned to landscape and still life, a shift that allowed the radical innovation of his formal experiments to come to the fore. In Milk Can and Apples, he divides the canvas horizontally: the cool blues of the cloth, pitcher, and wallpaper contrast with the yellows, oranges, and reds of the fruit on the table. The foreshortened baguette parallels the sharp diagonal formed by the crumpled linen, and the decorative flowers and fruit on the wallpaper complement the placement of objects on the table. With this careful composition, Cézanne suggests that the painting is both a mirror of nature and something which stands apart; as he put it, "It is understood that the artist places himself in front of nature; he copies it while interpreting it."
(From Cézanne did not include much information in this painting. He painted from a photograph of a man standing in a studio in a bathing suit rather than from something that he had seen in real life. It is **** to tell where the painting takes place and who the person is. This uncertainty is one of the reasons why The Bather is considered to be a modern painting. Instead of telling a story or representing a specific place, the painting seems to capture a sense of ambiguity or uncertainty that is typical of the modern experience. • Ask your students how they might convey an idea about life where they live (i.e., is it crowded and noisy or desolate and quiet?) without showing a specific place or activity. AUDIO: Find out why Cézanne is considered to be one of the forefathers of 20th-century painting, with Curator Anne Temkin.
Cézanne painted this hillside scene from direct observation; he felt strongly, he said, that "pictures painted inside, in the studio, will never be as good." He also believed that "when out-of-door scenes are represented, the contrasts between the figures and the ground are astounding and the landscape is magnificent." Indeed, the geometric ocher planes of the buildings—boldly outlined in blue—emerge in focus from the loosely rendered foliage. As the road bends down the hill, it shifts and ultimately is subsumed by the greenery, which is actually composed of a striking array of colors. This is the last painting Cézanne made in the small French village of Montgeroult before returning to his hometown of Aix-en-Provence, where he remained until his death.
From When Gauguin painted Still Life with Three Puppies he was living in Brittany among a group of experimental painters. He abandoned naturalistic depictions and colors, declaring that “art is an abstraction” to be derived “from nature while dreaming before it.” The puppies’ bodies, for example, are outlined in bold blue, and the patterning of their coats mirrors the botanical print of the tablecloth. It is thought that Gauguin drew stylistic inspiration for this painting from children’s-book illustrations and from Japanese prints, which were introduced to him by his friend and fellow artist Vincent van Gogh that year.
From The Moon and the Earth is Gauguin's depiction of an ancient Polynesian myth, in which Hina, the female spirit of the Moon, implores Fatou, the male spirit of the Earth, to grant humans eternal life. It is a request Fatou resolutely denies. Gauguin's depiction of Hina and Fatou—marked by a great disparity in the figure's size, scale, and coloration—seems to reflect their ancient quarrel. In the foreground, Hinas nude figure is in full view, while Fatou, rendered from the chest up, looms larger than life in the background. But there is no middle ground; the distance between them appears impassable.
From In spring 1891 Gauguin traveled to the South Pacific island of Tahiti, then a French colony. He hoped to find an enchanting paradise, far from the modern metropolis of Paris. However, by the time of Gauguin's arrival Tahiti had been profoundly altered by French colonization: poverty and sickness were rampant. Still, in his paintings of the island Gauguin included elements of the imaginary, configuring Tahiti as a pre-modern land of leisure. His use of bright, flat, and unrealistic colors and his interest in recovering a "pure" subject, closer to nature, were greatly influential to the next generation of European artists, including the Fauves and German Expressionists.
From Although Rousseau completed more than twenty-five jungle paintings in his career, he never traveled outside France. He instead drew on images of the exotic as it was presented to the urban dweller through popular literature, colonial expositions, and the Paris Zoo. The lush jungle, wild animals, and mysterious horn player featured in this work were inspired by Rousseau's visits to the city's natural history museum and Jardin des plantes (a combined zoo and botanical garden). Of his visits the artist said, "When I am in these hothouses and see the strange plants from exotic lands, it seems to me that I am entering a dream." The **** model in this painting reclines on a sofa, mixing the domestic and the exotic. Listen to a kids audio program about this painting at:
From Rousseau, a toll collector for the city of Paris, was largely a self-taught painter, although he had ambitions of entering the Academy. This was never realized, but the sharp colors, fantastic imagery, and precise outlines in his workderived from the style and subject matter of popular print culturestruck a chord with a younger generation of avant-garde painters. Rousseau described the subject of The Sleeping Gypsy thus: "A wandering Negress, a mandolin player, lies with her jar beside her (a vase with drinking water), overcome by fatigue in a deep sleep. A lion chances to pass by, picks up her scent yet does not devour her. There is a moonlight effect, very poetic."
From Seurat spent the summer of 1886 in the French coastal town of Honfleur in order to “wash the light of the studio” from his eyes, he said. He meticulously applied at least twenty-five colors here, in the form of thousands of dots carefully placed on the canvas. Long bands of clouds echo the horizon and the breakwaters on the beach. The vast sky and tranquil sea meet at the horizon line, bringing a sense of spacious light to the picture; yet from up close they also have a peculiar visual density. Seurat added the wooden frame later, hand-painting it with the same technique to add greater luminosity and suggest the extension of the image past its boundaries.
From Georges-Pierre Seurat, like Impressionist painters before him, was very interested in painting light, and studied optical theory to develop his painting technique, known as “pointillism,” or Neo-Impressionism (see Lesson Three). Seurat created this image by carefully placing small dots of color side by side. When viewed up close, one is aware of the many small dots of varied color. When viewed from a distance, the dots fuse together to create the image. Neo-Impressionist artists believed that this painstaking method of painting was the most scientific and precise way to record color and light.
from "This morning I saw the country from my window a long time before sunrise, with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big," van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo, from France. Rooted in imagination and memory, The Starry Night embodies an inner, subjective expression of van Goghs response to nature. In thick, sweeping brushstrokes, a flamelike cypress unites the churning sky and the quiet village below. The village was partly invented, and the church spire evokes van Gogh's native land, the Netherlands. AUDIO: Find out what makes Van Gogh’s The Starry Night an expressionist landscape.
From Joseph Roulin worked for a post office in the French town of Arles. He was not a letter carrier but rather held a higher position as an official sorting mail at the train station. Van Gogh and Roulin lived on the same street and became close friends. Van Gogh painted many portraits of Roulin. This picture, which van Gogh boasted of having completed quickly, in a single session, was painted after Roulin got a better-paying job and left Arles. Some scholars think that this portrait was not painted from life but rather from memory or from previous portraits. • Ask your students what they think can be learned about Joseph Roulin by looking at this portrait, keeping in mind costume, expression, pose, and background.
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