Introduction to Pointillism

Updated on July 17, 2018
Faceless39 profile image

My name is Kate P. I'm a dental hygienist, pyrography artist, avid gardener, writer, and many other things!

Pointillism Close-up
Pointillism Close-up | Source

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
Pixellation
Pixellation | Source
Color Wheel
Color Wheel | Source

Technique

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 at right.)

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

Classic Pointillists

Artist
YoB / YoD
Notable Works
Vincent van Gogh
1853 - 1890
"Selbstbildnis" ("Self-portrait"), 1887
Georges Seurat
1859 - 1891
"Un dimanche à la Grande Jatte" ("A Sunday on La Grande Jatte"), Georges Seurat, 1886
Camille Pissarro
1830 - 1903
"La Récolte des Foins, Eragny" ("The Hay Harvest, Eragny"), 1887
Georges Lemmen
1865 - 1916
"Plage a Heist" ("The Beach at Heist"), 1892
Henri-Edmond Cross
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
Charles Angrand
1854 - 1926
"Les Pêcheurs" ("The Harvesters"), Charles Angrand, 1892
Paul Signac
1863 - 1935
"Le port de Saint-Tropez" ("The Port of Saint-Tropez"), 1901
Maximilien Luce
1858 - 1941
"Montmartre, de la Rue Cortot, Vue Vers Saint-Denis" ("Montmartre, Cortot Street, Looking At Saint-Denis"), 1900

Classic Works

Click thumbnail to view full-size
"Un dimanche à la Grande Jatte" ("A Sunday on La Grande Jatte"), Georges Seurat, 1886"A Sunday on La Grande Jatte" (To Show Scale), Georges Seurat"La Seine à la Jatte Grand, Printemps" ("The Seine to the Grand Jatte, Spring"), Georges Seurat, 1888"Les Pêcheurs" ("The Harvesters"), Charles Angrand, 1892"Palais des Papes Avignon" ("The Papal Palace, Avignon"), Paul Signac, 1900"Montmartre, de la Rue Cortot, Vue Vers Saint-Denis" ("Montmartre, Cortot Street, Looking At Saint-Denis"), Maximilien Luce, 1900"Il Mediterraneo Presso le Lavandou" ("The Mediterranean at Le Lavandou"), Theo Van Rysselberghe, 1926"La Chaîne des Maures" (Place name), Henri-Edmond Cross, 1907
"Un dimanche à la Grande Jatte" ("A Sunday on La Grande Jatte"), Georges Seurat, 1886
"Un dimanche à la Grande Jatte" ("A Sunday on La Grande Jatte"), Georges Seurat, 1886 | Source
"A Sunday on La Grande Jatte" (To Show Scale), Georges Seurat
"A Sunday on La Grande Jatte" (To Show Scale), Georges Seurat | Source
"La Seine à la Jatte Grand, Printemps" ("The Seine to the Grand Jatte, Spring"), Georges Seurat, 1888
"La Seine à la Jatte Grand, Printemps" ("The Seine to the Grand Jatte, Spring"), Georges Seurat, 1888 | Source
"Les Pêcheurs" ("The Harvesters"), Charles Angrand, 1892
"Les Pêcheurs" ("The Harvesters"), Charles Angrand, 1892 | Source
"Palais des Papes Avignon" ("The Papal Palace, Avignon"), Paul Signac, 1900
"Palais des Papes Avignon" ("The Papal Palace, Avignon"), Paul Signac, 1900 | Source
"Montmartre, de la Rue Cortot, Vue Vers Saint-Denis" ("Montmartre, Cortot Street, Looking At Saint-Denis"), Maximilien Luce, 1900
"Montmartre, de la Rue Cortot, Vue Vers Saint-Denis" ("Montmartre, Cortot Street, Looking At Saint-Denis"), Maximilien Luce, 1900 | Source
"Il Mediterraneo Presso le Lavandou" ("The Mediterranean at Le Lavandou"), Theo Van Rysselberghe, 1926
"Il Mediterraneo Presso le Lavandou" ("The Mediterranean at Le Lavandou"), Theo Van Rysselberghe, 1926 | Source
"La Chaîne des Maures" (Place name), Henri-Edmond Cross, 1907
"La Chaîne des Maures" (Place name), Henri-Edmond Cross, 1907 | Source

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

Artist
Work
Website
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.
andydiazhope.com
Ben Heine
Uses large, single dots of varying sizes, giving a new twist to pointillism.
www.benheine.com
Christian Faur
Uses hand cast crayons to create pointillism images, often based on photographs.
www.christianfaur.com
Angelo Franco
Uses finger painting and other techniques to create amazingly beautiful modern pointillist works.
www.angelofranco.com
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.
www.chrisjordan.com
Chuck Close
Though he specializes in photorealism, he has also done some amazing pointillist works.
www.chuckclose.coe.uh.edu

Modern Works

Click thumbnail to view full-size
"Hudson Valley Abstract," Angelo Franco, 2009"Blooming Tree," Angelo Franco, 2007"Hope," Andy Diaz, 2006 (Digital photograph reassembled in pill capsules.)"Hope" Detail, Andy Diaz, 2006 (Digital photograph reassembled in pill capsules.)"Crayon Boy," Christian Faur, 2008 (Hand cast crayons.)"Crayon Boy" Detail, Christian Faur, 2008 (Hand cast crayons.)"Gyre," Chris Jordan, 2009 (Depicts 2.4 million pieces of plastic, equal to the estimated number of pounds of plastic pollution that enter the world's oceans every hour. All of the plastic in this image was collected from the Pacific Ocean.)"Gyre" Close-up, Chris Jordan, 2009 (Depicts some of the millions of pieces of plastic seen in the image above.)
"Hudson Valley Abstract," Angelo Franco, 2009
"Hudson Valley Abstract," Angelo Franco, 2009 | Source
"Blooming Tree," Angelo Franco, 2007
"Blooming Tree," Angelo Franco, 2007 | Source
"Hope," Andy Diaz, 2006 (Digital photograph reassembled in pill capsules.)
"Hope," Andy Diaz, 2006 (Digital photograph reassembled in pill capsules.) | Source
"Hope" Detail, Andy Diaz, 2006 (Digital photograph reassembled in pill capsules.)
"Hope" Detail, Andy Diaz, 2006 (Digital photograph reassembled in pill capsules.) | Source
"Crayon Boy," Christian Faur, 2008 (Hand cast crayons.)
"Crayon Boy," Christian Faur, 2008 (Hand cast crayons.) | Source
"Crayon Boy" Detail, Christian Faur, 2008 (Hand cast crayons.)
"Crayon Boy" Detail, Christian Faur, 2008 (Hand cast crayons.) | Source
"Gyre," Chris Jordan, 2009 (Depicts 2.4 million pieces of plastic, equal to the estimated number of pounds of plastic pollution that enter the world's oceans every hour. All of the plastic in this image was collected from the Pacific Ocean.)
"Gyre," Chris Jordan, 2009 (Depicts 2.4 million pieces of plastic, equal to the estimated number of pounds of plastic pollution that enter the world's oceans every hour. All of the plastic in this image was collected from the Pacific Ocean.) | Source
"Gyre" Close-up, Chris Jordan, 2009 (Depicts some of the millions of pieces of plastic seen in the image above.)
"Gyre" Close-up, Chris Jordan, 2009 (Depicts some of the millions of pieces of plastic seen in the image above.) | Source

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

— Camille Pissarro

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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

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

— Paul Signac

Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Faceless39

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      • Allison Loker profile image

        Allison Loker 

        3 years ago from Brooklyn

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

      • profile image

        Angelo Franco 

        5 years ago

        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 profile image

        Paradise7 

        5 years ago from Upstate New York

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

      • profile image

        Vanderleelie 

        5 years ago

        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.

      • Faceless39 profile imageAUTHOR

        Faceless39 

        6 years ago from The North Woods, USA

        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!

      • ib radmasters profile image

        ib radmasters 

        6 years ago from Southern California

        What is the difference between pointillism and impressionism?

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

        Thanks

      • Faceless39 profile imageAUTHOR

        Faceless39 

        6 years ago from The North Woods, USA

        @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 profile image

        Claudia Tello 

        6 years ago from Mexico

        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.

      • profile image

        Sueswan 

        6 years ago

        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 profile image

        SopranoRocks 

        6 years ago from Upper Peninsula, Michigan, USA

        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 =)

      • Faceless39 profile imageAUTHOR

        Faceless39 

        6 years ago from The North Woods, USA

        @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 profile image

        Ruchira 

        6 years ago from United States

        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

      • Faceless39 profile imageAUTHOR

        Faceless39 

        6 years ago from The North Woods, USA

        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 profile image

        SopranoRocks 

        6 years ago from Upper Peninsula, Michigan, USA

        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 profile image

        mvaivata 

        6 years ago

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

      • rebeccamealey profile image

        Rebecca Mealey 

        6 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

        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 profile image

        Dbro 

        6 years ago from Texas, USA

        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!

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