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Two on a horse by Wassily Kandinsky Virtosu Art Gallery

by Shane Lewis

10 June '19

Pointillism art


Pointillism definition (term pointillism art)

Pointillism was a revolutionary painting technique pioneered by Georges Seurat and Paul Signac in Paris in the mid-1880s. It was a reaction against the prevailing movement of Impressionism, which was based on the subjective responses of individual artists. Pointillism, by contrast, demanded a much more scientific approach – as we’ll see below.

Along with Seurat and Signac, leading members of the group included their fellow Frenchmen, Henri-Edmond Cross, and Maximilien Luce. Other well-known artists who briefly made works in Pointillist style were Vincent Van Gogh and, Robert Delaunay, Pablo Picasso, Piet Mondrian and Wassily Kandinsky.

Pointillism definition (term pointillism)

A technique of neo-impressionist painting using tiny dots of various pure colors, which become blended in the viewer's eye. It was developed by Seurat with the aim of producing a greater degree of luminosity and brilliance of color.

1. Points of pure color:

Pointillism involved the application of paint in carefully placed dots of pure, unmixed color. According to Seurat and Signac, these would be blended by the viewer’s eye to create a more striking image than any made after mixing colors conventionally on a palette.

painter Georges Seurat la Grande Jatte
Painter Georges Seurat la Grande Jatte

2: Science of the eye:

In short, the visual impact of a tapestry was actually a matter of optics, not chemistry. It depended on the juxtaposition of complementary colors (which enhanced each other's intensity) – blue and orange, for example.

3. 'Painting by dots':

The movement's name derives from a review of Seurat's work by the French art critic, Félix Fénéon, who used the expression Peinture au point (“painting by dots” or "dots of paint").

4. Meticulous technique:

Pointillism is regarded as a Neo-Impressionist movement. Which is to say, it grew out of – and beyond – Impressionism. Like members of that earlier movement, Pointillists wished to render optical phenomena. However, they renounced fluid, spontaneous strokes in favor of a measured, meticulous technique.

5. Van Gogh and Pointillism:

Vincent van Gogh had a brief association with Pointillism. Certainly some of his paintings from that Parisian period – such as 1887's Self-Portrait – show hints of its influence. It's generally agreed, however, that van Gogh was too restless a spirit for a style as technical as Pointillism.

Self-Portrait of Vincent van Gogh
Self-Portrait of Vincent van Gogh

6. Music of the dots:

Musical metaphors were occasionally used to help describe Pointillism, most straightforwardly that of the colored dots being in a kind of harmony.

From Pointillism to Fauvism:

With its strident color combinations, Pointillism was a clear influence on Fauvism, among other movements: Henri Matisse's Luxe, Calme et Volupté (1904, now in the Musée d'Orsay) is often cited as an important work of transition between the two.

Henri Matisse's Luxe, Calme et Volupté
Henri Matisse's Luxe, Calme et Volupté

Pointillism painting

Pablo Picasso The Happy Family, 1917
Pablo Picasso "The Happy Family", 1917
Piet Mondrian Pointillist Dune Study, Crest at Left, 1909
Piet Mondrian Pointillist Dune Study, Crest at Left, 1909
Landscape with disc - Robert Delaunay
Landscape with disc - Robert Delaunay
Two on a horse by Wassily Kandinsky
Two on a horse by Wassily Kandinsky

About author Shane Lewis was born 1962 in Dublin, UK. He studied at National College of Art and Design, Dublin. Educated in Ireland and the US. Lives in New York. Has also lived in UK. Modern Art. Contemporary Art. Build up collections, Institutions, Preservation, Research. E:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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