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Post-impressionism is a term used to categorize certain artists that started working after the Impressionism, being that most of them went through an impressionist phase or just were inspired by certain aspects of the movement. These artists did not follow the same objective or have similar styles, they all had different reactions to the Impressionism and applied that to their art. Post-impressionism is mainly used to describe four artists: Paul Cézanne, Georges Seurat, Vincent van Gogh, and Paul Gauguin.
By using intense, radiant colors and thick coats of paint, most Post-impressionist artists would divert from the naturalism of Impressionism but continue with a modern, everyday life theme. Cézanne would use the expressive paint strokes to emphasize geometric forms he found in the image, as he wished to deepen his knowledge of the fundamental geometry of nature. He started experimenting with bigger areas of color more abstractly and later influenced Cubism. The painting Mont Sainte-Victoire is an excellent example of how Cézanne would find geometric shapes inside the landscape, and it was his favorite theme to paint.
Gauguin was an artist that developed an Impressionist style, having participated in the last five of their exhibitions. He started off painting as a hobby, but he is encouraged by Camille Pissarro to go further. He is later influenced by symbolism and starts using pure colors and was able to depict his emotions and ideas linearly. He is most known for his works after he traveled to Martinique, in 1887. He paints River Under the Trees Martinique and is greatly influenced by the intense colors from nature. The works Gauguin produced in this period will later inspire the group Nabis.
The influence the artists had from the Impressionism was fundamental, and a new sense of freedom was being felt. Because of this new world of painting possibilities, this period has some of the most influential and well-known artists of all time, and out of these, one of the most inspiring is Vincent van Gogh himself. Troubled by psychological or mental issues – no one knows for sure – van Gogh transmitted everything to his canvas, and the results are timeless. In Self Portrait III his intense personality stands out, as he beautifully contrasts the green and blue of the painting with his orange hair and beard. In ten years, the artist produced over forty self-portraits, as if he were using his art to deal with his inner self. Gauguin and van Gogh did eventually meet, but it ended in an argument, that led van Gogh to have a horrible breakdown.
Vincent van Gogh had a great domain of light and color. He was proud of how he was able to portray the night without using the color black in Café Terrace on the Place du Forum. Again, van Gogh captivates the viewer using contrast, but this time contrasting the intense yellow light with the deep night. Using bright colors, he gives this urban scene life. The artist tragically dies from a possible suicide and was never taken seriously as a painter, not even by the other Post-impressionist artists.
Another admirer of the Impressionists was Georges Seurat, more specifically a fan of the harmony of their color pallets. He concentrated his work on the optical aspect of the Impressionism and studied the Grammaire des Arts du Dessin, as he searched for a scientific and rational method to adapt and better the Impressionists technique. The results of this study come in a new technique that has many names like divisionism, chromoluminarism or pointillism ( the term was given by Felix Féneon). Seurat concludes that by putting small areas of complementary colors side by side, the colors would look more vibrant and alive. Consequently, by doing so, the figures portrayed in this technique look static, almost like sculptures. The painting in large scale A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte is his most famous piece in this style. He showed it in 1886 at the last impressionist exhibition, leaving some people perplexed and most people baffled by this groundbreaking work of art. The piece shows a typical scene of the modern urban life and captivates the spirit of the Impressionism. Seurat depicts people from different backgrounds and social classes joining at the Island of La Grande Jatte to relax, some in poses considered traditionally Classic.
With a completely different thematic and scenario, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec paints the brothels and the bohemian coffee and night houses of Montmartre. Being very skillful at drawing, Lautrec innovates the use of loose and fast brush strokes as he was able to capture the spontaneous essence of these places, as seen in Party in The Moulin Rouge.