Introduction to Pointillism
History of Pointillism
The year 1886 saw many amazing changes: the first shipment of oranges was sent from Los Angeles via the Transcontinental Railroad; Wilhelm Steinitz became the first recognized World Chess Champion; the Haymarket Riot earned Americans an 8-hour workday; the gramophone and Coca-Cola were invented; and the new art form sweeping the world was called pointillism.
In 1886, what the art world knew of painting, which was basically classical painting up to that point, was challenged when Georges Seurat, a French painter, decided to step outside the box. Instead of using fluid movements and sweeps of the paintbrush, Seurat began creating images from hundreds and thousands of dots.
Despite acceptance of pointillism in modern times, it didn't start out that way. Pointillism and pointillists were seen as jokes in the upper-crust world of art at the time. The term itself was used to ridicule the artwork, as well as the artists, but when it began to catch on amongst the masses, the name stuck. Other terms for pointillism are Neo-impressionism (pointillism is based on impressionism), and Divisionism / Chromoluminarism (upon which impressionism is based; namely, the separation of colors into dots.)
Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.— Vincent van Gogh
The classical pointillists used pure primary colors, unmixed on a palate; thus, pointillist works are often vibrant and colorful. In the classical form, tiny dots of primary colors are arranged close together, which then generate secondary colors. The human eye interprets and blends these to give a full picture.
One easy way to picture this is to think of the pixellation of images on your computer and television. When zoomed in, computer images pixellate; that is, it becomes obvious that the image is made of thousands of little pixels (dots), and your eyes have blended them into one single image (see image above.)
I suppose you could also picture a dot or pixel as something akin to an atom. Atoms make up our bodies and every object that we see, but we see most things as solid images and solid objects. Pixellation and Pointillism use the same idea to trick us into seeing what's not really there.
In addition to forming images from tiny dots, pointillism uses separate colors in close proximity to make an overall impression of the color they want to portray. For example, think of how the Red, Green, and Blue color scale we learned about as kids allows us to blend seemingly very different colors into a wide range of nuanced colors. Red + Blue = Purple; depending on how much red or how much blue is used, the end result might tend more to magenta, mauve, periwinkle, or fuchsia as the end result.
A good picture is equivalent to a good deed.— Vincent van Gogh
YoB / YoD
Vincent van Gogh
1853 - 1890
"Selbstbildnis" ("Self-portrait"), 1887
1859 - 1891
"Un dimanche à la Grande Jatte" ("A Sunday on La Grande Jatte"), Georges Seurat, 1886
1830 - 1903
"La Récolte des Foins, Eragny" ("The Hay Harvest, Eragny"), 1887
1865 - 1916
"Plage a Heist" ("The Beach at Heist"), 1892
1834 - 1917
"La Chaîne des Maures" (Place name), 1907
Theo van Rysselberghe
1862 - 1926
"Il Mediterraneo Presso le Lavandou" ("The Mediterranean at Le Lavandou"), 1926
1854 - 1926
"Les Pêcheurs" ("The Harvesters"), Charles Angrand, 1892
1863 - 1935
"Le port de Saint-Tropez" ("The Port of Saint-Tropez"), 1901
1858 - 1941
"Montmartre, de la Rue Cortot, Vue Vers Saint-Denis" ("Montmartre, Cortot Street, Looking At Saint-Denis"), 1900
Classic WorksClick thumbnail to view full-size
Art is harmony. Harmony is the analogy of contrary and of similar elements of tone, of color and of line, conditioned by the dominate key, and under the influence of a particular light, in gay, calm, or sad combinations.— Georges Seurat
Deconstructs his own digital photographs and painstakingly reassembles the original image in a mosaic of gelatin pill capsules, each containing small portions from several original prints.
Uses large, single dots of varying sizes, giving a new twist to pointillism.
Uses hand cast crayons to create pointillism images, often based on photographs.
Uses finger painting and other techniques to create amazingly beautiful modern pointillist works.
Uses junk like plastic bottles, pop cans, and other garbage to create pointillism images that bring waste and mass consumption to the public via artwork.
Though he specializes in photorealism, he has also done some amazing pointillist works.
Modern WorksClick thumbnail to view full-size
Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing.— Camille Pissarro
Complete Artworks of the Artists:
- Charles Angrand
- Henri-Edmond Cross
- Georges Lemmen
- Maximilien Luce
- Camille Pissarro
- Georges Seurat
- Paul Signac
- Vincent van Gogh
- Theo van Rysselberghe
Pointillism on Wikipedia
Short Pointillism History
- "The anarchist painter is not the one who will create anarchist pictures, but the one who will fight with all his individuality against official conventions." -- Paul Signac
- "If one is master of one thing and understands one thing well, one has at the same time, insight into and understanding of many things." -- Vincent van Gogh
- "Art is a creation of a higher order than a copy of nature which is governed by chance. By the elimination of all muddy colors, by the exclusive use of optical mixture of pure colors, by a methodical divisionism and a strict observation of the scientific theory of colors, the neo-impressionists insures a maximum of luminosity, of color intensity, and of harmony- a result that has never yet been obtained." -- Paul Signac
- "I remember that, although I was full of fervour, I didn't have the slightest inkling, even at forty, of the deeper side to the movement we were pursuing by instinct. It was in the air!" -- Camille Pissarro
- "Painting is the art of hollowing a surface." -- Georges Seurat
- "Instead of trying to reproduce exactly what I have before my eyes, I use color more arbitrarily so as to express myself forcibly." -- Vincent van Gogh
- “Some say they see poetry in my paintings; I see only science.” -- Georges Seurat
The golden age has not passed; it lies in the future.— Paul Signac
Questions & Answers
© 2012 Kate P