Is there a characteristic "style" of post-impressionism? If so, what are the defining traits of that style?
Everything I find seems to just lump everyone from c.1880–c.1905 as post-impressionism as a "catch-all" for people who weren't impressionists and weren't cubists.
If you have access to pictures of Vincent Van Gogh's paintings and those of Claude Monet and Pissarro, especially, you will easily see differneces between Post-Impressionism and Impressionism.
In the pictorial biography "Van Gogh" writeen by Rainer Metzger and Ingo F. Walther this is written:
His pictures were a means of illustrating and backing up his view of the world. When vanGogh considered the works of art he saw, he was not applying technical or compositional standards, or assessing colour values; his criteria were not aesthetic. Instead, he was after expression of his own ideas. His approach to art was distinctly literary in character: he expected pictures to tell stories with which he could identify.
These remarks explain the the Post-Impressionists: Like the Impressionists, they painted outdoors, utilizing light, and recorded the impressions of what they saw. But, they added to their paintings more of themselves, it would seem. The brush strokes are broader, the color more intense, more vibrant at times. Painters such as Van Gogh experienced a tremendous liberation into color, a liberation of emotional intensity.
Another Post-Impressionist, Georges Seurat, put Impressionism on a scientific basis. His tableau,
"Sunday Afternoon on the Grande Jatte," is an outdoor painting with dabs of color as an Impressionistic painting would be. However, there is an unnaturalness to this painting wrought by the individual dots of complementary color that the eye of the viewer blends together. The repetiiton of curved shapes is obviously calculated so that they are repeted throughout the painting. Each figure rests upon a shadow; therefore, there is no one light source in this supposedly outdoor depiction. There is no movement in this painting, nor any breaking up of light as is the case with the Impressionists.
With painters like Cezanne, the brillant colors of Van Gogh are applied and some of the geometric design of Seurat is apparent in his paintings. Cezanne began the outlining of geometric shapes in his colorful paintings; he united color and form in his paintings. The palette of colors was purified and intensified with Post-Impressionists.
A fine example of the technique of purifing and intensifying colors can also be found in the paintings of Paul Gauguin as well as in the posters of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Their art differs greatly from the cubists, who broke up shapes into their geometric components.