Die "Wegbereiter der Moderne"
The years after the break-up of the group of French impressionist painters in 1886 were characterized by a remarkable pluralism of styles, this phase is best described as Post-Impressionism. Some artists were quite prominent during this time, despite going their own directions, together they paved the path for the following avant-garde. These artists have an early impressionist period in common, which they all mkanaged to overcome in their very own way, by turning away from the impressionist imitation of nature. The work of art is thus understood as an own world that is organized by its inner laws.
This internal force of order is a guiding constant, especially in the work of Paul Cézannes. Non-alternating impressions of nature and the world's consistency was what art was supposed to express in his view. His principle of "Réalisation" comprises the necessary examination of nature, however, this is not based on an imitation, but on construction and order. Accordingly, the right combination of forms and colors makes for a rational and harmonious whole that will reconcile nature's contrasts. A meticulous way of painting is essential for this program, whereas the individual strokes of the brush underline the composition based on basic geometrical forms. Simplification and construction are the two relevant keywords in this context, they reveal Cézanne's traces in modernist art, such as in Expressionism and particularly in Cubism.
Paul Gauguin also played a decisive role for the development of Modernism, his fascination for the primitive and exotic make for an important model for Expressionism's desire for nativeness. Formal aspects of his well-balanced compositions are planeness, simplification and calmness. The figures are rhythmically arranged in a grid-like system and thus provide a plane determined by swung lines and unmixed colors. This compositional feature and the occasionally applied combination of several perspectives in one picture are a clear break with impressionist painting, executed on the spur of the moment, and lay the foundation for formal experiments, for instance such as those of Picasso.
Colors and the swung line are the protagonists in the works of another precursor, Vincent van Gogh. However, paintings by the Dutch painter do not emanate a calm atmosphere, but an unstoppable dynamic that often passes on to something dramatic. It is on par with the constant changes of an uncontrolled cosmic nature and emphasizes the precarious character of human existence. This lack of continuance is the greatest difference to the swift idea of the Impressionists and comprises both the spiritual world as well as social aspects. Van Gogh was - unlike the impressionist - critical and committed.