Synthetism, in art, as a term was first used in 1877 to distinguish between a new primitive painting style and the more naturalistic impressionism.
The term Synthetism is derived from the French verb synthétiser (to synthesize or to combine so as to form a new, complex product).
The Synthetism term is associated with a symbolic representation and is characterized by flat areas of color and bold outlines.
The Synthetism style shows a concern not to utilize a natural reference and to rely on the artist's inner world and memory as a reference.
Synthetism as a method of painting was evolved by Paul Gauguin, Émile Bernard, Louis Anquetin, and others in the 1880s to emphasize a break and distinguish their work from Impressionism.
Synthetism was distinguished as a new style, differing from impressionist art and theory, when it emphasized two-dimensional flat patterns, non-realistic techniques, Vivid colors, Disregard for the rules of traditional perspective, Symbolism or symbolic elements, Rather flat figures, Simple drawing, and Primitivism.
In 1890, Maurice Denis summarized the goals of 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 colors assembled in a certain order."
In the early part of his career as a painter, Gauguin painted primarily landscapes "en plein air" in the Impressionist manner.
By 1888, Gauguin had become dissatisfied with Impressionism, which did not satisfy his enthusiasm for archaic and primitive forms or his interest in the mystical.
In 1888, during a visit to the artist's colony of Pont-Aven in Brittany, he met the young artist Émile Bernard, who had begun painting in a simplified style influenced by Japanese prints.
Gauguin developed the idea of non-naturalistic landscapes with inspiration from Japanese woodblock prints from Hiroshige and Hokusai, which he owned, Gauguin applied large areas of flat color to the composition, and the red ground departs from the conventional representation of earth, field, or grass.
In 1889 Gauguin and Emile Schuffenecker organized an exhibition introducing Synthetism "du groupe impressioniste et synthétiste" in the Café "Volpini".
Gauguin's Synthetism In "Vision after the Sermon (Jacob Wrestling with the Angel)" Painting
The French artist Paul Gauguin completed oil painting in 1888. Vision after the Sermon (Jacob Wrestling with the Angel) was painted in Pont-Aven, Brittany, France. and is now exhibited in the Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh.
Vision after the Sermon depicts a scene from the Bible in which Jacob wrestles an angel. The artwork depicts this indirectly, through a vision that the women depicted see after a sermon in church.
Gauguin painted Vision After the Sermon to mark his interest in interpreting religious subject matter in a highly personal synthetism style.
Gauguin is leaning towards abstraction. The brown trunk, black garments, white hats, and red field are painted with minimal color shading. Gauguin is showing his interest in moving away from impressionism towards a more abstract, even symbolic, manner of painting.
While formal elements of Gauguin's paintings reflect the influence of Japanese prints,
Gauguin's choice of subject matter and composition are uniquely his own.
Gauguin structured the painting by placing a tree trunk diagonally through its center. By sectioning the image this way, he creates a visual separation between the Breton women and their vision of an angel wrestling with Jacob.
The women, one of whom clasps her hands in prayer, are wearing a variety of white hats and seem to be the ones having this vision.
This compositional decision is developed to frame the main subjects of the painting. The curve of the trunk follows the line of the head of the center-most figure. The branches and leaves shoot out directly toward the upper right corner of the painting to form a second frame around the angel and Jacob.
The vivid reds, black, and white contribute to the visual energy of the scene and catch the viewer's attention from the first moment.
Gauguin Synthetism In The Green Christ Painting
The Green Christ (in French: Le Christ vert) is an oil on canvas painting executed by Paul Gauguin in the Autumn of 1889 in Pont-Aven, Brittany, The Green Christ artwork is an example of symbolic Synthetism in painting.
The woman appears to be hiding from a pair of figures in the distant background; the green Christ providing her cover from these people.
The Green Christ depicts a Breton woman at the foot of a calvary or sculpture of Christ's crucifixion. Calvaries are common in town squares in Brittany.
Topographically, the site depicted is the Atlantic coast at Le Pouldu. But the calvary depicted is an amalgam of several calvaries from different places.
The cross is based upon the calvary in the center of Névez, a community close to Pont-Aven, located several miles from the coast, and the figure of Christ is based upon the calvary at Briec, also at some distance from the sea.