Artistic Movements Through History – Cloisonnism, Synthetism and Luminism

Cloisonnism is a style of post-Impressionist painting with bold and flat forms separated by dark contours. The term was coined by critic Edouard Dujardin on the occasion of the Salon des Indépendants, in March 1888. Artists Émile Bernard, Louis Anquetin, Paul Gauguin, Paul Sérusier, and others started painting in this style in the late 19th century. The name evokes the technique of cloisonné, where wires (cloisonné or “compartments”) are soldered to the body of the piece, filled with powdered glass, and then fired. Many of the same painters also described their works as Synthetism, a closely related movement.

In The Yellow Christ (1889), often cited as a quintessential cloisonnist work, Gauguin reduced the image to areas of single colours separated by heavy black outlines. In such works he paid little attention to classical perspective and boldly eliminated subtle gradations of colour—two of the most characteristic principles of post-Renaissance painting.


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).

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.





The term was first used in 1877 to distinguish between scientific and naturalistic impressionism, The confusing title has been mistakenly associated with impressionism. Synthetism emphasized two-dimensional flat patterns, thus differing from impressionist art and theory.

Luminism is an American landscape painting style of the 1850s – 1870s, characterized by effects of light in landscapes, through using aerial perspective, and concealing visible brushstrokes. Luminist landscapes emphasize tranquillity, and often depict calm, reflective water and a soft, hazy sky.

The term luminism was introduced by mid-20th-century art historians to describe a 19th-century American painting style that developed as an offshoot of the Hudson River school. The artists who painted in this style did not refer to their own work as “luminism”, nor did they articulate any common painting philosophy outside of the guiding principles of the Hudson River school.

Luminism shares an emphasis on the effects of light with impressionism. However, the two styles are markedly different. Luminism is characterized by attention to detail and the hiding of brushstrokes, while impressionism is characterized by lack of detail and an emphasis on brushstrokes. Luminism preceded impressionism, and the artists who painted in a Luminist style were in no way influenced by impressionism.

Leading American Luminists.

Robert Salmon (1775 – ca. 1845)
Fitz Henry Lane (1804 – 1865)
George Caleb Bingham (1811 – 1879)
John Frederick Kensett (1816 – 1872)
James Augustus Suydam (1819 – 1865)
Martin Johnson Heade (1819 – 1904)
Sanford Robinson Gifford (1823 – 1880)
Jasper Francis Cropsey (1823 – 1900)
Frederic Edwin Church (1826 – 1900)
David Johnson (1827 – 1908)
Albert Bierstadt (1830 – 1902)
Edmund Darch Lewis (1835 – 1910)
Alfred Thompson Bricher (1837 – 1908)


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