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Art History and Artists

Pointillism

History >> Art History

General Overview

Pointillism is often considered part of the Post-impressionist movement. It was primarily invented by painters George Seurat and Paul Signac. While Impressionists used small dabs of paint as part of their technique, Pointillism took this to the next level using only small dots of pure color to compose an entire painting.

When was the Pointillism movement?

Pointillism reached its peak in the 1880s and 1890s after the Impressionist movement. Many of the concepts and ideas, however, continued to be used by artists in the future.

What are the characteristics of Pointillism?

Unlike some art movements, Pointillism has nothing to do with the subject matter of the painting. It is a specific way of applying the paint to the canvas. In Pointillism the painting is made up entirely of small dots of pure color. See the example below.


See the dots that make up the man from Seurat's painting The Circus

Pointillism used the science of optics to create colors from many small dots placed so close to each other that they would blur into an image to the eye. This is the same way computer screens work today. The pixels in the computer screen are just like the dots in a Pointillist painting.

Examples of Pointillism

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (Georges Seurat)

This painting is by far the most famous of the Pointillism paintings. It was George Seurat's masterpiece. It is over 6 feet tall and 10 feet wide. Every bit of the painting is done with tiny little dots of pure color. Seurat worked on it for around two years. You can see it today at the Art Institute of Chicago.


Sunday on the Island of La Grande Jatte
(Click image to see larger version)

Sunday (Paul Signac)

Paul Signac studied Pointillism with George Seurat. In the painting Sunday you can see his technique. The colors are very bright and the lines quite sharp when viewed from a distance. The painting is of a typical Parisian husband and wife spending Sunday afternoon together in their home.


Sunday by Paul Signac
(Click image to see larger version)

Morning, Interior (Maximilien Luce)

Luce used Pointillism when painting scenes of people at work. This painting shows a man getting ready for work in the morning. The colors are vibrant and you can see the early morning sunlight entering the room through the windows.


Morning, Interior by Maximilien Luce
(Click image to see larger version)

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