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Introduction to Pointillism

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I'm a dental hygienist, pyrography artist, avid gardener, writer, vegetarian, world traveler, and many other things!

The Banks of the Marne at Dawn by Albert Dubois.

The Banks of the Marne at Dawn by Albert Dubois.

The 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 the 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 pixelation 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 allow 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

Classic Pointillists

ArtistYoB / YoDNotable Works

Vincent van Gogh


"Selbstbildnis" ("Self-portrait"), 1887

Georges Seurat


"Un dimanche à la Grande Jatte" ("A Sunday on La Grande Jatte"), Georges Seurat, 1886

Camille Pissarro


"La Récolte des Foins, Eragny" ("The Hay Harvest, Eragny"), 1887

Georges Lemmen


"Plage a Heist" ("The Beach at Heist"), 1892

Henri-Edmond Cross


"La Chaîne des Maures" (Place name), 1907

Theo van Rysselberghe


"Il Mediterraneo Presso le Lavandou" ("The Mediterranean at Le Lavandou"), 1926

Charles Angrand


"Les Pêcheurs" ("The Harvesters"), Charles Angrand, 1892

Paul Signac


"Le port de Saint-Tropez" ("The Port of Saint-Tropez"), 1901

Maximilien Luce


"Montmartre, de la Rue Cortot, Vue Vers Saint-Denis" ("Montmartre, Cortot Street, Looking At Saint-Denis"), 1900

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

Modern Pointillists


Andy Diaz

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.

Ben Heine

Uses large, single dots of varying sizes, giving a new twist to pointillism.

Christian Faur

Uses hand cast crayons to create pointillism images, often based on photographs.

Angelo Franco

Uses finger painting and other techniques to create amazingly beautiful modern pointillist works.

Chris Jordan

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.

Chuck Close

Though he specializes in photorealism, he has also done some amazing pointillist works.

Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing.

— Camille Pissarro

More Information

Complete Artworks of the Artists

Modern Artists

The golden age has not passed; it lies in the future.

— Paul Signac

Pointillist Quotations

  • "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

© 2012 Kate P


R Wilson on August 16, 2018:

I recall the first time I was introduced to pointilism was Seurat's Une Dimanche..." that was at the Chicago art Museum in the 1950s. I was about 8 or 9 and stood there for so long I was left behind by my mother. I couldn't believe that those dots that were meaningless cacophony close-up could create so interesting a scene from far off. I kept walking forward and backward and it must have been an aha moment because I've never forgotten my surprise and wonder. My mother was surprised to find me exactly where I had been half an hour before...I looked the same on the outside but was hiding the "new me", older and wiser!

Allison Loker on November 28, 2014:

Great hub! Your research is spot on and makes for a great read. Thank you so much!

Angelo Franco on February 17, 2013:

Thank You for including my name and my artworks as a modern pointillistic artist, I don't deserve to be with the giants in art.

Very informative blog!

Paradise7 from Upstate New York on January 25, 2013:

Terrific! I really enjoyed this and learned a lot. Thank you!

Vanderleelie on December 22, 2012:

An interesting overview of pointillism in historical and contemporary art. Seurat's use of this technique resulted from reading books on colour theory and perception that outlined how the eye sees. He studied new discoveries in science, described in works by Michel Chevreul, Ogden Rood and Charles Henry, and applied those theories to painting. Seurat's invention of pointillist technique was not just a personal aesthetic choice, it was the outcome of experimenting with mid-19th century science.

Kate P (author) from The North Woods, USA on May 09, 2012:

Hi there ib,

Instead of using fluid movements and sweeps of the paintbrush, Seurat began creating images from hundreds and thousands of dots. While pointillism can be very impressionistic, it uses dots rather than fluid strokes. That's the difference!

Brad Masters from Southern California on March 20, 2012:

What is the difference between pointillism and impressionism?

The former is more the way the computer printers, and monitors form images.


Kate P (author) from The North Woods, USA on March 02, 2012:

@SopranoRocks, I know the feeling, but tend to prefer the smaller cities anyway (I love rambling through untrodden forests and picnicking by lonely rivers.) Big cities to me are to be driven to on day trips or weekends. Though there's definitely something to be said about "big city" museums!

@Sueswan, thank so much, I'm really glad you found it fascinating. I learned a lot myself while researching this hub. Have a great day/evening as well!

@Claudia, thanks so much for deeming this hub worthy of linkage; I appreciate it. Your hub sounds really interesting.. I'll have to check it out!

Claudia Tello from Mexico on March 02, 2012:

I was looking for some nice Hubs to link to my recently published article "Impressionism: Mexican vs European Impressionist Art" and I found this one: a very good, high quality Hub. I hope you don’t mind me linking it and thank you for enabling me to use this tool.

Sueswan on February 25, 2012:

Hi Faceless39

A very interesting and fascinating read.

"Great things are done by a series of small things brought together." -- Vincent van Gogh

This is so true.

Voted up and away

Have a good evening. :)

SopranoRocks from Upper Peninsula, Michigan, USA on February 18, 2012:

Fabulous thx! Of course in all cases, art is better seen in person but your images really make me want to go see them all. The great works are a must see. Living in a small middle-of-nowhere town, I miss the easy access to magnificent museums. Love the added scale photo =)

Kate P (author) from The North Woods, USA on February 17, 2012:

@SopranoRocks, I've added an image to show the scale of "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte" -- thanks for the idea.

@Ruchira, thank you very much. I'm glad you enjoyed learning about pointillism!

Ruchira from United States on February 17, 2012:

Wow..I wish I was an artist.

This hub was so informative yet beautiful.

But, thanks for enlightening me on the above

voted up as useful

Kate P (author) from The North Woods, USA on February 17, 2012:

Thank you for all of the great feedback!

Yes, SopranoRocks, some of these paintings are absolutely enormous. Maybe I'll look around to see if I can't find a good example to show that. As you say, "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte" covers a large wall!

It really is an intriguing movement in the art world. What also appeals to me is that they were basically rebels. I respect that!

SopranoRocks from Upper Peninsula, Michigan, USA on February 17, 2012:

Georges Seurat created one of my favorite paintings, which you have shown in this very informational and throughout HUB. I was fortunate enough to view the real A Sunday on La Grande Jatte at the Art Institute of Chicago and bought a smaller version and a mug from the gift shop. The original is breathtaking and you can spend an hour viewing it up close and far to see the intricacies of each dot. Plus is it huge! A whole wall is covered by this painting. I was an art major at Chicago's DePaul University but first saw this painting on the movie Ferris Beuller's Day Off. This HUB is th most informative writings I have seen online about Pointillism, which is great because not enough people know of it and how painstakingly talented the classic pointillists were!

mvaivata on February 16, 2012:

This style seems so fantastically laborious, making it all the more amazing. Thank you for this fascinating hub!

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on February 16, 2012:

I have learned something new about an art technique and I totally love it. Those dots made even with the end of a brush? A new wave of art. So cool!

Dbro from Texas, USA on February 16, 2012:

What an interesting and informative piece! I appreciate all the supporting information and images you provided here. Thank you for sharing your expertise with us!