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Pointillism Artists

Apr 06 2011
{Articles >> Art History - Periods}
Pointillism Artists
Georges Seurat, A Sunday on la Grande Jatte, 1884-1886 via Wikimedia Commons

The most well known Pointillist Artist is Georges Seurat (1859-1891), a Post-Impressionist painter. While all Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painters were concerned in some way with the interaction of color, Seurat relied on the science of color theory in developing his pointillist technique. Pointillism is sometimes called Neo-Impressionism (although this term is used differently by different historians) or Divisionism, which was Seurat's own term.

Other artist who experimented with variations of Pointillism are Camille Pissarro, Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Signac.

The basic idea behind pointillism is the placement of small dots of pure color that, when viewed from a distance, form an image and new colors. Color theorists of the 19th century argued that colors are affected by the color around them. For example, if red is placed next to blue, the blue will take on a greenish hue, because green is the opposite of red.

Paul Signac described "divisionsim...[as] employing as a means of expression the optical mixture of tints and tones"; divisionism was also compared to the mosaics of the Byzantines.

Paul Signac, Sunday, 1888-1890 via Wikimedia Commons

Pointillism is significant on the one hand because it grew out of Impressionism's fascination with light and color, but was also a shift away from the Impressionists' emphasis on spontaneity. Although Claude Monet's study of color and light on the Rouen Cathedral series may appear to have pointillist attributes, with its multi-colored dots and dabs of paint, his focus is different from Seurat's. Monet is trying to capture the instantaneous and ever-changing impression made by light and color. Seurat is using color theory to analyze color and form, and break it down into its building blocks of colored dots. While painters like Monet used direction in their brush strokes to convey form and movement, Seurat used only the disciplined dot.

Artists like Vincent Van Gogh, although not a pointillist, used pointillist techniques in some of his works. Instead of dots of color, he used dabs and strokes, and his method does not appear to have the same methodic constraint as Seurat's.

Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo, "I often think of his [Seurat's] method, though I do not follow it at all; but he is an original colorist, and Signac too, though to a different degree, their stippling is a new discovery, and at all events I like them very much. But I myself—I tell you frankly—am returning more to what I was looking for before I came to Paris. I do not know if anyone before me has talked about suggestive color, but Delacroix and Monticelli, without talking about it, did it." (in Chipp, Theories of Modern Art)


Tags: Pointillism