To understand the tremendous impact Van Gogh's work and life have had on art history and the modern cultural conception of "the artist," it is important first to examine the artistic and cultural environment with which he was acquainted and his relation to post-Impressionism, the period with which he is most closely associated. Of all the -isms that populate art history and that pretend to describe, organize, and categorize trends and styles, post- Impressionism certainly ranks among the most vague and least helpful. Coined by English critic Roger Fry in 1910, some twenty-five years after the onset of the very period whose varied styles and divergent circumstances the term claimed to characterize, the term "post-Impressionism" refers loosely to the period beginning in the 1880's and ending before the ascendancy of modernism with Fauvism and Cubism
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