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Paul Signac : The Breakfast (1886-1887)

Pointillism describes a style of painting . It had its heyday between 1889 and 1910 . Pointillism is assigned to post-impressionism .

Important pointillist artists are Georges Seurat , Paul Signac , Henri Edmond Cross , Giovanni Segantini , the Belgian Théo van Rysselberghe and, for a few years, Camille Pissarro . On the German side, Paul Baum is considered to be the main representative of pointillism.


Georges Seurat originally wanted to call the style of painting he had developed chromoluminarism (colored light painting), but then decided on divisionism (division painting). However, Paul Signac's designation , pointillism (dotted style), and Fénéon's more developmental designation than neo-impressionism , which Signac later accepted, became more common.


Typical of pointillism is the strictly geometrically composed, often ornamental-looking image structure. In contrast to Impressionism, a realistic snapshot is no longer sought, but a well-thought-out composition. This approach to get down from the picture of the geometric relationships, the screen layout, the relationship of light and objects overall composition of the individual elements, called Seurat as divisionism .


At the beginning of the 1880s, the painter Georges Seurat dealt intensively with the then new knowledge of color theory. He studied the work of James Clerk Maxwell , Ogden Nicholas Rood , Charles Henry and especially Eugène Chevreul on color perception and additive color mixing. From this knowledge he developed a new painting technique in 1883 and 1884.

This is based on the simultaneous contrast of neighboring colors. The entire picture consists of small regular dots of color in pure colors. The overall color impression of a surface only emerges in the eye of the beholder and from a certain distance. The color dots are formed into shapes through optical fusion and additive color mixing . Due to the additive color mixing, the colors tend to be more luminous, while when mixing on the easel, the colors become darker and dirty colors are almost inevitable.

In this way pointillism leaves the path of impressionism in order to find the autonomous image and its autonomy.

Development and creation

Georges Seurat: A Sunday afternoon on the island of La Grande Jatte (1884–1886)

Seurat's first large picture, Bathers at Asnières , was only hinted at in the pointillist manner, but with regard to the composition and resolution in pixels, it already suggests the later development. When it was rejected in the Salon de Paris in 1884 , it was shown in the Salon of the Independents .

The trend-setting work for the new art direction was the picture A Sunday afternoon on the island of La Grande Jatte . In terms of genre, the picture picks up on a common impressionistic theme: people outdoors enjoying their leisure time. However, Seurat subordinates these people to the composition of the picture, aligning them along the main horizontal and vertical lines. He takes great care to show a cross-section of people from different walks of life. He presents these people from the front, from behind and in profile in an unrealistic system. The impression arises of an exaggeration of reality, of a solemn staging. This impression is reinforced by the fact that Seurat includes the frame of the picture in the painting.

After Seurat's death in 1891, Paul Signac became the leading theorist and painter of pointillism.

First reactions

It was obvious to the audience, artists and critics that they were dealing with something new. The reception was ambivalent: many painters were fascinated by basing painting on a scientific basis, including Paul Signac, Charles Angrand , Henri Edmond Cross , Albert Dubois-Pillet , Léo Gausson , Louis Hayet , Maximilien Luce , Hippolyte Petitjean , at the beginning of the Movement also Camille Pissarro , who later expressed himself critical of Divisionism, however, and his son Lucien . Others, such as Edgar Degas , rejected the new direction right from the start. The art dealer and great patron of the Impressionists Paul Durand-Ruel expressed his disappointment that Camille Pissarro allowed himself to be influenced by his younger colleagues when the market for impressionist paintings was only just beginning to improve.

Negative critics described the painting style as confettisme . The critic Félix Fénéon, on the other hand, advocated the new art direction. He saw it as trend-setting and coined the term Neo-Impressionism in 1886 to emphasize this. He dealt intensively with the theoretical foundations and knew Charles Henry and several other theorists personally. He was the editorial secretary of Revue Indépendante magazine and editor of La Revue blanche magazine . Until Seurat's death, he accompanied his work and Signac's work with benevolent, well-founded reviews in these magazines.

The German Impressionists tolerated the painting style, but did not use it except for Paul Baum . Long lines remained the characteristic of secessionist painting in Germany.

Further spread

The Belgian artist group Les Vingt ( The Twenty ) , founded in 1883, played an essential role in the further spread of pointillism . These quickly assumed a central role in the Belgian art world. They invited a wide variety of artists to their exhibitions. From 1887 onwards they repeatedly showed the pictures of Seurat and his Parisian colleagues in Brussels. Younger artists such as Théo van Rysselberghe, Henry van de Velde , Jan Toorop , Johan Joseph Aarts , Ferdinand Hart Nibbrig , Jan Vijlbrief and others adapted the new way of seeing.

In Italy, the painters Giovanni Segantini , Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo , Emilio Longoni and Angelo Morbelli adapted the pointillist style of painting and developed it further into their own forms.

Influence on 20th century art

The influence of pointillism on the further artistic development was underestimated for a long time. Large parts of the criticism and the bourgeois public often viewed it as an insignificant technical means. Many well-known artists such as Piet Mondrian , Henri Matisse , Elie and Robert Delaunay , Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin dealt intensively with the pointillist technique and went through a phase of pointillist experiments. From the point of view of some historians, this suggests that pointillism plays an essential role in the development of the paradigms of earlier eras, representationalism and rendering, to those of the 20th century, abstraction and construction.

The art historian Robert Rosenblum judges Seurat that he could even compete with Cézanne ( "can rival even Cézanne"), and endorses him great foresight to ( "look far into the past and into the future"), the painting Grande Jatte he calls as a kind of Eiffel Tower of painting ("a kind of Eiffel Tower of painting").


  • 2016/2017: Ways of Pointillism , Albertina , Vienna. Catalog.


  • Allan Antliff: On the move: The Neo-Impressionists and pictorial representations of the dispossessed in: Anarchie und Kunst, Verlag Edition AV, 2011, ISBN 978-3-86841-052-5 , pp. 35–45.
  • Rainer Budde (Ed.): Pointillism: in the footsteps of Georges Seurat. Prestel, Munich 1997, ISBN 3-7913-1840-3 .
  • Peter H. Feist: French Impressionism , Taschen Verlag GmbH, Cologne 1995, ISBN 3-8228-8702-1 .
  • Norbert Wolf: Art Epochs. 19th century. Reclam, Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 978-3-15-018177-5 .

Web links

Commons : Pointillism  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Peter H. Feist: French Impressionism , Taschen Verlag GmbH, Cologne 1995, ISBN 3-8228-8702-1 , pp. 280-281
  2. ^ The Color Sense .; Prof. ON Rood Lectures Before the Academy of Sciences. , New York Times, February 19, 1879, on the Web at [1]
  3. ^ Rainer Budde: Pointillism. In the footsteps of Georges Seurat , p. 9
  4. ^ Félix Fénéon: L'impressionisme aux Tuileries , L'art Moderne, September 19, 1886
  5. National Gallery of London : Radical Light ( Memento of the original from August 13, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , Italy's Divisionist Painters 1891-1910, website accessed September 2, 2008. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.nationalgallery.org.uk
  6. ^ Roberta Smith : The Pointillist 'Contagion' in Italy , New York Times, April 27, 2007, website accessed September 3, 2008.
  7. Albert Schug: About the meaning of the neo-impressionist theory Seurat , in: Rainer Budde (Ed.): Pointillism. In the footsteps of Georges Seurat