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Signac, Women at the Well

Women at the Well. 1892. Paul Signac (1863-1935), Oil on canvas, 6 feet 4 ¾ x 51 5/8 inches.  RMN (Musée d’Orsay)/Hervé Lewandowski

Post-Impressionism Activity 

9th–12th Grade 
Getting to know Post-Impressionism


In this lesson students build visual analysis skills through discussion or note-taking. Students also research biographies and art criticism to learn about Post-Impressionism. Students compose a persuasive letter or exhibition review based on their notes from observations and research.


Students will:

  1. identify several characteristics of paintings of the Post-Impressionist era;
  2. identify one or more artists of the Post-Impressionist era and be able to respond to and accurately describe in writing one or more of their paintings using art vocabulary; and
  3. write a composition, in the form of a review or persuasive letter, that makes a claim, provides supporting evidence, and demonstrates awareness of audience.


  • Images from the Post-Impressionism exhibition
  • Short article about Post-Impressionism and the Post-Impressionist exhibition
  • Short biographical sketches of Post-Impressionist artists
  • Four-square graphic organizer for recording notes and analysis


Subject matter: who, where (setting), what (are they doing); genre: landscape, portrait, still life, narrative (historical, mythological, literary, religious); elements of art: line, shape, space, texture, color (warm, cool, primary, secondary, complementary)

Before the Visit

1. Vocabulary preview:

Preview the vocabulary categories above, providing a visual example of each concept through images of Post-Impressionist artworks.

Give context for the study of Post-Impressionism through a guiding question, such as: What changed?
Review Impressionist paintings with students (on computer, LCD/overhead) so students will understand what came before Post-Impressionism. Call attention to the artist's treatment of form, use of colors, and subject matter. After discussing a few Impressionist images, show students some Post-Impressionist images. Ask students what they notice about the two sets of images.

Read a short article about Post-Impressionist art using the following questions to set a purpose for reading:

  • Who were the Post-Impressionists, and how did they get their name?
  • What made the art of the Post-Impressionists different from the Impressionist painters who had gone before them?
  • What new things were going on in the world that affected the Post-Impressionist painters?
  • What are some of the specific elements of paintings we will want to pay attention to when we look at Post-Impressionist art (color, texture, form, subject matter)?

2. Looking at Post-Impressionist Art:

Using an I do, We do, You do format, conduct a discussion and note-taking session in response to Post-Impressionist painting.

I do: You model a few comments for students in response to a piece of artwork so that students understand what you will be asking of them.

We do: Conduct a whole group discussion and exploration of a Post-Impressionist painting. Sample questions might be these:

  • What is the subject matter the painter chose to depict? What do you see that makes you say that? Can you find anything else that makes you think that?
  • What is going on in this picture?
  • How has the artist used color in the picture? What sort of feeling or experience does this use of color evoke?
  • How has the artist used line in the picture? What sort of feeling or experience does this use of line evoke?
  • What three words would you use to describe this painting?

After each answer, prompt students to identify what they see that makes them respond in that way: What do you see that makes you say that? Remember to thank the students for their participation and let them know what you especially enjoyed about the discussion.

You do: Students conduct individual research and visual analysis. Before they begin, compile learning packets on Post-Impressionist artists including a short artist biography, artist and critic quotes about Post-Impressionism, and image(s) by that artist (see Resources for listing of biography sources and quotes by artists and critics).

Distribute the learning packets to pairs or small groups of students. Students choose one painter to focus on. Use any of these sample criteria for selecting the painters or paintings students will take notes on:

  • Choose one painting each from the Impressionist Post-Impressionist periods
  • Select paintings that really stand out for students
  • Compare two paintings of the same genre, e.g. two portraits, two landscapes
  • Select paintings that connect with something learned in class, e.g., a painter whose name or painting students recognize.

While one student analyzes the group’s painting another takes notes on biographical information as well as quotes about the Post-Impressionists. Students use their visual journals and the four-square graphic organizer to guide their analysis and note taking. After 15 minutes, partners switch tasks.

Using their notes, students choose to write a one-page response paper in the form of either a persuasive letter or a review of a Post-Impressionist exhibition.

3. Culminating Persuasive Writing Projects

Persuasive letter: Write a letter to a wealthy merchant asking him or her to sponsor an exhibition of Post-Impressionist art. Include details about the work of at least one artist to be included in the exhibition. Help the merchant you are writing to understand who might attend the exhibition and why it might be in the interests of the merchant to sponsor it. Explain why you believe it is important for such an exhibit to happen.


Review of a Post-Impressionist Exhibition: Write a review for a Parisian newspaper of the 20th century of a Post-Impressionist exhibition. Cite the time and the place of the exhibition and list some of the artists who appeared in it. Analyze at least one painter's work using art vocabulary. Include whether or not you recommend that your readers attend this exhibition and why.


Design a poster advertising a Post-Impressionist art exhibition. Include a time and a place for the exhibition, a list of painters to be included, and use one or more images from paintings in your design. Make sure you have one or more captions intended to persuade people to come to the exhibit.


Short online articles about Impressionism and Post-Impressionism:

For discussion guidelines and questioning strategies: Visual Thinking Strategies

Online sources for short biographies:

Language Arts Standards
9th – 10th grade: RC 2.2, 2.3, 2.5, WS 1.1-1.7, WA 2.3, 2.4, 2.5
11th – 12th grade: RC 2.3, 2.4, WS 1.1 -1.5, 1.7, WA 2.3, 2.4

Visual Arts Standards
9th-12th grade: 1.1, 1.3, 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 4.5