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Term applied to a manner of painting associated with Bernard, Gauguin, and their followers at Pont-Aven in Brittany. It involved the simplification of forms into large-scale patterns and the expressive purification of colours. Bernard believed that form and colour must be simplified for the sake of more forceful expression, and Gauguin spoke much of ‘synthesis’, by which he meant a blending of abstract ideas of rhythm and colour with visual impressions of nature. He advised his disciples to ‘paint by heart’ because in memory coloured by emotion natural forms become more integrated and meaningful. Bernard and Gauguin each claimed credit for developing Synthetism and they probably acted as mutual catalysts. Synthetism was at its most vital between about 1888 and 1894, but some artists working at Pont-Aven continued the style well into the 20th century. It was influential on the Nabis and has affinities with the more literary Symbolism. See also Cloisonnism.

Subjects: Art.

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