Synthetism 1888 – 1896

Style of painting that developed out of Cloisonnism and formed a current within Symbolism It was practised by Paul Gauguin and his circle in the late 1880s and early 1890s The term derives from the French verb synthétiser (to synthesize) and is based on the idea that art should be a synthesis of three features: the outward appearance of natural forms, the artist’s feelings about his subject, and purely aesthetic considerations of line, colour, and form The term was coined in 1889 when Gauguin and Emile Schuffenecker organized an exhibition entitled L’Exposition de peintures du groupe impressioniste et synthétiste in the Café Volpini at the Exposition Universelle in Paris The confusing title acknowledged the artists’ roots in Impressionism, with its adherence to natural forms and the depiction of light, while at the same time highlighting their more recent attempts to abandon nature as the focal point of art Although realistic, tangible subjects served as their starting-point, the artists distorted these images in order to express more clearly certain moods or interpretations

Synthetism is a term used by post-Impressionist artists like Paul Gauguin, Émile Bernard and Louis Anquetin to distinguish their work from Impressionism Earlier, Synthetism has been connected to the term Cloisonnism, and later to Symbolism The term is derived from the French verb synthétiser (to synthesize or to combine so as to form a new, complex product)

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Paul Gauguin, Émile Bernard, Louis Anquetin, and others pioneered the style during the late 1880s and early 1890s

Synthetist artists aimed to synthesize three features: The outward appearance of natural forms The artist’s feelings about their subject The purity of the aesthetic considerations of line, colour and form

In 1890, Maurice Denis summarized the goals for synthetism as: It is well to remember that a picture before being a battle horse, a nude woman, or some anecdote, is essentially a flat surface covered with colours assembled in a certain order

The term was first used in 1877 to distinguish between scientific and naturalistic impressionism, and in 1889 when Gauguin and Emile Schuffenecker organized an Exposition de peintures du groupe impressioniste et synthétiste in the Café Volpini at the Exposition Universelle in Paris The confusing title has been mistakenly associated with impressionism Synthetism emphasized two-dimensional flat patterns, thus differing from impressionist art and theory