Dueling Post-Impressionists

November 22, 2020 at 2:30 am (Art, France)

Of late, I have  been taking an online course entitled Dueling Post-Impressionists. Initially I was intrigued with the title; now I’m enthralled with the art.

The term Post-Impressionism encompasses a wide variety of artists. who followed the Impressionists in their triumphant march toward modernism. Two specific schools of painters fall under this rubric: the Nabis, and the School of Pont-Aven. The dates we’re talking about are roughly the mid 1880s to the turn of the twentieth century.

Our instructor provided these background notes;

Everyone’s heard of Gauguin who started his serious painting career in Brittany in 1886 at what was later called the School of Pont Aven. He was noted for his experimental use of color and Synthetist style that were distinct from Impressionism.

At the same time, a group of Parisian Post-Impressionist painters called themselves Nabis from the Hebrew word for prophet. They were a loose-knit group of over a dozen young artists in Paris. The Nabis played a large part in the transition from impressionism and academic art to abstract art, symbolism and the other early movements of modernism….

Pierre Bonnard and Edouard Vuillard were two of the most distinguished Nabi painters.

They were inspired by many sources, including Cezanne, Gauguin, and Japanese art. The Nabis created wallpaper, folding screens, and domestic scenes of remarkable intimacy. They have come into their own with 3 major exhibitions in 2019 in Paris, NY, and Washington, DC.

It should also be noted that the main impetus for the move to Brittany was that it was cheaper to live there than in Paris.

An explication of  the term ‘Synthetism’ helps the viewer understand the principles which governed the art of the Nabis painters and those of the School of Pont Aven. The chief characteristics, enumerated by our instructor, are as follows:

Abandonment of faithful representation;
Creation of a work based on the artist’s memory of the subject but reflecting his feelings while painting;
Bold application of pure color;
Absence of perspective and shading;
Application of flat forms separated by dark contours;
geometrical composition free of unnecessary detail and trimmings.

So at this point, let’s consider ourselves finished with the academic aspect of the art, and go on to the actual art.  The leading light among the painters who took up residence in Brittany was Paul Gauguin. Many of us are familiar  with Gauguin’s depiction of girls and young women from his years in Tahiti. These are earlier works, which I, for one, had never seen. Here are two of my favorites:

Water Mill at Pont Aven, Paul Gauguin, 1894


Le Champ Lollichon et L’Eglise de Pont Aven, Paul Gauguin

Gauguin settled in at an establishment called Pension Gloanec in Pont Aven. Not only was the rent low, but the food was excellent.

The Pension Gloanec no longer functions as a hostelry; instead, it houses a book store and event space.

Our instructor has thus far shown us many enchanting paintings. Then just cruising around on the web, aided by her list of artists, I found more on my own. (To obtain such lists on your own, go to the Wikipedia entries for Les Nabis and the Pont-Aven School.)

Little Girl in a Red Dress, by Maurice Denis


Les Delices de la Vie, by Armand Seguin

(The above work was until recently owned by David Rockefeller. Mr. Rockefeller passed away in 2017, at the age of 101.  Les Delices de la Vie, which translates roughly as ‘The Delicious, or Wonderful, Things of Life,’ was among the works in his collection that went to auction. Christie’s had estimated that it would sell for between $1,000,000 and $1,500,000. In the event, the price realized was $7,737,500.)

Paysage de Martinique, by Charles Laval.


Dining Room on the Garden, Pierre Bonnard


Farmhouse at Le Pouldu, by Paul Serusier


Little Laundry Girl, by Pierre Bonnard. (The word en francais is especially lovely: ‘Blanchisseuse.’) This work shows the influence of Japonisme on Bonnard’s art.

Enfant avec Goblet, by Edouard Vuillard

This past Wednesday, we were shown a painting by Vuillard called The Garden of Vaucresson. It fairly took my breath away:

One painting that I discovered just  recently that very much appealed to me is a landscape by Robert Bevan, a British painter. (Although Les Nabis and the Pont Aven artists were mainly French, there were others from farther away: England, like Robet Bevan; Ireland, like Roderic O’Conor; The Netherlands, like Meijer de Haan; and Poland, like Wladislaw Slewinski. In addition, there from time to time quite a few Americans.)

In fact, I was so enchanted by  this image that I have ordered this:

More to come on this, my current favorite subject.






  1. Sue said,

    Hi Roberta, I live in Omaha, Nebraska, and have been a fan of your blog for many years. Just wanted to thank you for the gorgeous artwork and fascinating stories you shared in this and the follow-up post. So interesting! I would love to know where you purchased your mug. You’ve brightened my day. Thank you!

    • Roberta Rood said,

      Hi, Sue. Thanks so much for your gracious words. The mug is from an outfit called Pixels – pixels.com

  2. Christophe said,

    Several of these paintings are quite beautiful. They also exhibit quite a bit of variation within the ‘school’.

  3. Michelle Ann said,

    Thanks for showing these lovely art works, which I hadn’t seen before. I may get a print of the watermill!

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