Pointillism was a groundbreaking painting approach that aimed to employ the knowledge of optics in the creation of paintings. This was accomplished by painting small, unmixed dots of colour side by side, which were then arranged in various ways to make an image. The impact was that by positioning the dots so close together, they were instantly blurred into an image by the viewers’ eyes. The pixels on a computer screen mimic the dots in a Pointillism artwork, therefore this method is very similar to how computer screens function today.

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Saint-Tropez. Fontaine des Lices (1895) by Paul Signac_©Wikimedia Commons

Pointillism art reimagined the use of little dabs of paint popularized by the Impressionist movement, to the point where painters strove to create complete paintings out of these tiny dots of pure colour. As a result, it’s frequently classified as part of the Post-Impressionist movement, as it gained prominence after the Impressionist period finished in the 1880s and 1890s.

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Le Chahut (‘The Can Can’, 1890) by Georges Seurat_©Wikimedia Commons

History

Pointillism was conceived in 1886 by French artists Georges Seurat and Paul Signac in opposition to the prevailing Impressionistic trend at the time. Pointillism stood in stark contrast to other Impressionist art approaches in that it forced artists to adopt a far more analytical approach to their work. Many other renowned French, Belgian, and Italian artists, in addition to Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, were founding members of the Pointillist movement. Art critics coined the term “Pointillism” to ridicule this obviously ludicrous art technique. Nevertheless, as the technique’s prominence expanded, Pointillism was accepted as the official name, and its prior pejorative connotation was dropped.

Small individual dots were packed firmly adjacent to each other to enable optical mixing in pointillism painting, which emerged during the Neo-Impressionist period of art. When viewed from a distance, the outcome of this technique was that the viewer’s mind and sight could blur the dots together to form a detailed image. This optical mixing also resulted in visuals with a more comprehensive and vibrant variety of hues than the single dots could produce on their own.

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L’air du Soir (‘The Evening Air’, c. 1893) by Henri-Edmond Cross_©Wikimedia Commons

Pointillism was a very scientific and technical approach since it attempted to recreate how light and colour were perceived. This meant that painters using this approach had to be well-versed in how to put their dots in relation to their other colour spots in order for their images to form appropriately later. The Pointillist approach became one of the most forward-thinking art forms of the age as more painters adopted this iconic dot painting technique, which was also known as “dotted art” in a more dialectal environment. Pointillism had a powerful effect on numerous art groups since it gave a totally new concept of the subject of colour studies. These dates ranged from the late nineteenth century to the avant-garde stages of the twentieth century.

Legacy

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Landscape with Stars (c. 1905-1908) by Henri-Edmond Cross_©Wikimedia Commons

By the 1890s, Pointillism art had achieved its pinnacle, with many artists of the time using the style in their works. The Post-Impressionist movement, which spanned the first half of the twentieth century, was heavily influenced by Pointillism. The style gradually vanished after that, as most artists began to experiment with various kinds of artistic expression. While Pointillism is widely regarded as having had the greatest impact on the technical aspects of art, its experiments with colour theory and grasp of optical realism opened numerous possibilities for subsequent art groups. Fauvism, which was influenced by the dramatic use of colour utilized by Pointillism artists, was a significant trend that emerged in the aftermath of Pointillism. Luxe, Calme et Volupté (1904), by Henri Matisse, is widely regarded as a major transitional piece between the two styles.

Pointillism was difficult to perfect as a painting method, and as a result, few painters are able to paint in this style today. Despite the fact that the era of Pointillism art has passed, many of its principles and ideas are still being utilised by artists working in a more current setting, and in a range of mediums. Fashion and tattoos are two examples of modern art forms that were definitely inspired by Pointillism.

Several artists are informally playing with the recurring themes that were popular in the Pointillism movement in the present day. The basic concept of dots has been reconstructed to fit into a modern context, with many artists using dots in a variety of shapes and forms for a variety of reasons. Some artists have even produced works entirely out of dots, indicating that Pointillism art is still alive and well in the twenty-first century. Swedish photographer Philip Karlberg is a contemporary artist who is noted for using dots and Pointillism concepts in his work. While Karlberg’s creative expression and later creations were inspired by dots, they differed greatly from the basic idea of Pointillism, yet their impact can be recognized in his works.

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The Port of Rotterdam (1907) by Paul Signac_©Wikimedia Commons

Pointillism’s groundbreaking approach inspired most artists at the time to explore it, despite the fact that it was believed to be complex when it first arrived on the cultural scene. As no movement as mathematically precise as Pointillism has grown since the paintings that arose from this time of art have gone on to become perhaps some of the most renowned artworks of all history. The impact of Pointillism art was widespread, with the style being credited with the emergence of several notable art trends throughout history.

References

  1. artincontext (2021). Pointillism – A History of Pointillism, the Famous Dot Painting Movement. [online] artincontext.org. Available at: https://artincontext.org/pointillism/.
  2. ‌Ducksters.com. (2019). History: Pointillism Art for Kids. [online] Available at: https://www.ducksters.com/history/art/pointillism.php.
  3. ‌Visual-arts-cork.com. (2010). Pointillism: History, Characteristics. [online] Available at: http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/history-of-art/pointillism.htm.
  4. ‌The KAZoART Contemporary Art Blog. (2019). A Brief History of Pointillism. [online] Available at: https://www.kazoart.com/blog/en/a-brief-history-of-pointillism/.
Author

Faria is an architecture student at IGDTUW, Delhi. She feels passionate towards learning and actively looks for new experiences. She believes that the design language should be universally accessible and understood, hence, she strives to uncover hidden dynamics of design by shifting the language from visual to verbal.

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