Dimanche by Paul Signac

History of Modern Art: Pointillism

Let’s resume our journey on modern art history by exploring Pointillism. Pointillism is a technique of painting in which small, distinct dots of pure color are applied in patterns to form an image. Georges Seurat and Paul Signac developed the technique in 1886, branching from Impressionism. So some of these painters we have already met briefly in Impressionism. But today we’ll focus more on their Pointillism works.

The term Pointillism was first coined by art critics in the late 1880s to ridicule the works of these artists, and is now used without its earlier mocking connotation. Neo-impressionism and Divisionism are also terms used to describe this technique of painting.

Le Chahut by George Seurat

Le Chahut by Georges Seurat

The technique relies on the ability of the eye and mind of the viewer to blend the color spots into a fuller range of tones. It is related to Divisionism, a more technical variant of the method. Divisionism is concerned with color theory, whereas pointillism is more focused on the specific style of brushwork used to apply the paint. It is a technique with few serious practitioners today, and is notably seen in the works of Seurat, Signac and Cross.

The practice of Pointillism is in sharp contrast to the traditional methods of blending pigments on a palette. Pointillism is analogous to the four-color CMYK printing process used by some color printers and large presses that place dots of Cyan (blue), Magenta (red), Yellow, and Key (black). Televisions and computer monitors use a similar technique to represent image colors using Red, Green, and Blue (RGB) colors.

Lady in White by Van Rysselberghe

Lady in White by Van Rysselberghe

If red, blue, and green light (the additive primaries) are mixed, the result is something close to white light. Painting is inherently subtractive, but pointillist colors often seem brighter than typical mixed subtractive colors. This may be partly because subtractive mixing of the pigments is avoided, and partly because some of the white canvas may be showing between the applied dots. The painting technique used for pointillist color mixing is at the expense of the traditional brushwork used to delineate texture. The majority of pointillism is done in oil paints. Anything may be used in its place, but oils are preferred for their thickness and tendency not to run or bleed.

Recolte des foins by Camille Pissarro

Recolte des foins by Camille Pissarro

 

Notable Pointillism Artists include:

 

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat

 

Feeding the chickens by Charles Angrand

Feeding the chickens by Charles Angrand

Dimanche by Paul Signac

Dimanche by Paul Signac

Children on the farm by Camille Pissarro

Children on the farm by Camille Pissarro

Breakfast by Paul Signac

Breakfast by Paul Signac

Antibes by Henri Edmond Cross

Antibes by Henri Edmond Cross

Bathers by Georges Seurat

Bathers by Georges Seurat

Women at the Well by Paul Signac

Women at the Well by Paul Signac

The Harvesters by Charles Angrand

The Harvesters by Charles Angrand

The Beach at Heist by Georges Lemmen

The Beach at Heist by Georges Lemmen

Self portrait by VanGogh

Self portrait by VanGogh

 

Portrait of Félix Fénéon by Paul Signac

Portrait of Félix Fénéon by Paul Signac

Le-Bois-Annonciade by Henri Edmond Cross

Le-Bois-Annonciade by Henri Edmond Cross

 

Hope you enjoyed our short journey through pointillism and are willing to explore more the individual artists!

In the meantime i’d love to hear what you think of pointillism comparing to the traditional impressionism as a movement, and which of the above artists were the more influential in your opinion?

See you next time!

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