Paris transformed from a medieval city to a modern capital of sweeping boulevards in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Artists made a radical break from the subjects and styles approved by the art establishment; subject matter was no longer religious, historical or classical. Instead artists turned to the world around them for inspiration. Often leaving the studio to paint outdoors — en plein air — artists including Claude Monet created landscapes and scenes of modern life using short, quick brush strokes in bright, pure colour. Capturing the sensation of changing light, weather conditions, and atmospheric effects became a primary focus.
Post-Impressionism refers to a broad group of artists who further developed Impressionism’s possibilities. Where Impressionism maintained a sense of naturalism, Post-Impressionism tended towards abstraction and symbolism. The artists Paul Gauguin and Emile Bernard sought inspiration in idyllic pastoral life, using sinuous line and blocks of flat colour. In the work of Félix Vallotton, Mary Cassatt, and Edouard Vuillard, intimate domestic scenes provide the basis for compositions that explore abstraction through decorative surfaces. Paul Cézanne is important for his analysis of form: using geometric planes to model figures and landscapes, he developed a distinctive style that prefigured Cubism.