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Pointillism Art (c.1884-1900)

What's Pointillism Art? - Characteristics

In fine art, the expression"pointillism" (from the French word"stage" meaning"dot") describes a technique of Neo-Impressionism painting, where hundreds of small dots or dashes of pure colour are placed on the canvas, or other soil, in order to create maximum luminosity. That is, rather than applying the mixture onto the painting and mixing colour pigments on a palette, the Pointillist relies to mix the optically and applies small dots of pure color that is unmixed directly. Viewed at the ideal distance, (supposedly 3 times the diagonal measurement) the dots of colour give a richer and more subtle effect than can be achieved by conventional techniques. Pointillism (really an offshoot of Divisionism) was the most influential type of Post-Impressionist painting (1880-95) and was practised by Post-Impressionist painters from a number of different schools. Italian Divisionism, led by Vittore Grubicy De Dragon (1851-1920), was especially active.

Can Pointillism Relate to Neo-Impressionism and Divisionism?

Strictly speaking Pointillism refers only to the sort of mark made on the canvas (the dot). On may just as easily call it"dottism". The actual theory of blending paint-pigments optically, rather than on a palette, is referred to as Divisionism (or Chromoluminarism). Pointillism was the painting style called Neo-Impressionism's signature style to confuse things further. To put it another way, in order to create the most luminous colors Neo-Impressionist painters absorbed Divisionism's colour theories and employed Pointillist brushwork.

Note: in reality, the human eye, which still sees them as separate colours not really combines the dots of pure unmixed color. However, they do appear to oscillate or vibrate, creating a type of shimmer.

Who Invented Pointillism?

The founder of Pointillism was Georges Seurat (1859-91), a model student at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts at Paris. A traditional, and traditional painter, he rejected Impressionism, a kind of painting and colour based on the responses of the individual artist, in favour of a scientific method he developed around 1884 and called Chromoluminarism. Depending on the scientific colour theory of the French chemist Michel Eugene Chevreul (Law of Simultaneous Colour Contrast, 1839), and the American physicist Ogden Rood (Modern Chromatics, 1879), the method was used to a degree from the Impressionist painters, but only on an ad hoc basis, and it was not developed systematically until Seurat. (Compare Monet's strategy, see: Characteristics of Impressionist Painting 1870-1910.)

Seurat's main disciple was the former Impressionist Paul Signac (1863-1935). The scientific method behind Divisionism and Pointillism attracted Signac, A coastal landscape artist and he became the leading exponent of the Neo-Impressionist movement. Besides watercolours and oil paintings, he also produced a number of pen-and-ink sketches and lithographs, etchings composed of tiny. A strong supporter of artists within the motion was allegedly the first person.

Who Are The Best Pointillist Painters?

Signac and seurat remain the greatest exponents of Pointillism. As well as them, the Impressionist Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) was also an active member of the school, as was Henri-Edmond Cross (1856-1910), and Maximilien Luce (1858-1941) who portrayed industrial society and working-class scenes. Other artists associated with the idiom include: the Fauvist leader Henri Matisse (1869-1954); Albert Dubois-Pillet (1846-90), a self-taught artist that adapted Pointillism to landscape scenery and naturalist subjects; Charles Agrand (1854-1926), that had been more of a lyrical painter; Giuseppe Pelizza da Volpedo (1868-1907), the top Italian Pointillist; and Theo van Rysselberghe (1862-1926) the creator of Les Vingt, a group of innovative Post-Impressionists. Even Van Gogh (1853-90) painted sometimes in a Pointillist style.


Neo-Impressionism had a remarkable influence on the next generation, including the likes of Matisse and Andre Derain. In particular, its focus on color stimulated the development of the Fauvism school - and therefore German expressionism - thus playing an important role. NOTE: To determine how Monet's, Seurat's and Signac's so-called'naturalism' led paradoxically to abstraction, see: Realism to Impressionism (1830-1900).

Famous Pointillist Paintings

Georges Seurat

Fishing at The pointillism art definition Seine (1883) Museum of Modern Art, Troyes

Bathers at Asnieres (1883-4) National Gallery, London

Le Bec du Hoc, Grandcamp (1885) Tate, London

View of Fort Samson (1885) Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884-6, Chicago)

The Models (1888) Barnes Foundation, Merion, PA

Grey Weather, Grande Jatte (1888) Philadelphia Museum of Art

Eiffel Tower (1889) California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco

Paul Signac

The Jetty at Cassis (1889) Metropolitan Museum of Art New York City

Women at the Well (1892) Musée d'Orsay, Paris

The Papal Palace, Avignon (1900, Musee d'Orsay, Paris)

The Port of Saint-Tropez (1901) The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo

Grand Canal, Venice (1905) Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio

Theo van Rysselberghe

Madame Maus (1890) Musees Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels

For other Dutch luminists, visit: Post-Impressionism in Holland (1880-1920).

Henri-Edmond Cross

Nocturne (1896) Petit Palais, Geneva

Maximilien Luce

The Foundry (1899) Kroller-Muller Museum, The Netherlands

Camille Pissarro

Self-Portrait (1903) Tate, London

Henri Matisse

Luxe, Calme Et Volupte (1904-5) Musee d'Orsay

Neo-Impressionist works hang in many of the best art museums in America and Europe. See: Art Museums in Europe, for details of sets containing Pointillist works.