Pointillism 1880 –1910

Pointillism is a technique of painting in which small, distinct dots of color are applied in patterns to form an image Georges Seurat and Paul Signac developed the technique in 1886, branching from Impressionism The term “Pointillism” was coined by art critics in the late 1880s to ridicule the works of these artists, and is now used without its earlier mocking connotation The movement Seurat began with this technique is known as Neo-Impressionism The Divisionists, too, used a similar technique of patterns to form images, though with larger cube-like brushstrokes

At the beginning of the 1880s the painter Georges Seurat dealt extensively with the then new insights into the theory of color He studied the works of James Clerk Maxwell, Ogden Nicholas Rood , Charles Henry and, above all, Eugène Chevreul on color perception and additive color mixing From these findings he developed a new painting technique in the years 1883 and 1884

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This is due to the simultaneous contrast of neighboring colors The whole picture is made up of small, regular colors of pure color The total color impression of a surface is only in the eye of the viewer and from a certain distance Through optical fusion and additive color mixing, the color points form shapes

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 However, see also Andy Warhol’s early works, and Pop Art

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

If red, blue, and green light (the additive primaries) are mixed, the result is something close to white light (see Prism (optics)) 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 paint Anything may be used in its place, but oils are preferred for their thickness and tendency not to run or bleed

Typical for pointillism is the strictly geometrically composed, often ornamental-looking picture composition In contrast to Impressionism, a realistic momentary impression is no longer striven for, but a well-thought-out composition This approach, from the overall composition of the image over the geometrical relations, the composition of images, the relations of light and objects down to the individual elements, Seurat described as divisionism

In this way, the pointillism leaves the path of Impressionism to find the autonomous image and its autonomy Due to the additive color mixing the colors have the tendency to more luminosity, while when mixing on the easel the colors become darker and dirt colors are almost unavoidable

The influence of pointillism on further artistic development was underestimated for a long time Large parts of criticism and the bourgeois public often regarded him as an unimportant technical means Many well-known artists such as Piet Mondrian, Henri Matisse, Elie and Robert Delaunay, Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin, however, intensively dealt with the pointillist technique and passed through a phase of pointillist experiments From the point of view of some historians, this points to the fact that pointillism plays an essential role in the development of the paradigms of the earlier epochs, objectivity and reproduction, to the twentieth century, abstraction and construction