Free Research Paper About Pointillism And Georges Seurat
Pointillism has influenced the artistic community for decades. It was the most influential style in painting practiced by Post-Impressionist painters, which is why it is an interesting subject to explore and discuss. Unlike other art movements that focus on the artists’ interpretation of forms or images, expression of views, perception, and feelings, Pointillism is largely based on science. In Pointillism, artists use dots to form lines, figures and shapes. Artists apply their skills and techniques in pointillism by changing the density of dots as well as color intensity (Dickerson, 189). Pointillism may be considered as an innovation in art because the artist not only applies forms or structures of art but also science, particularly the science of color and optics, and the view or interpretation of the image in the painting depends on the viewer.
Pointillism challenges traditional styles and techniques in painting. In traditional painting, the artist illustrates forms or images as they are unless these are abstract representations. Nonetheless, in pointillism, the artist uses pure color and applies them on canvas as dots. The artist works on creating the forms, lines, or images and subjects in the painting through the dots. The role of the viewer is to appreciate the visual quality of the painting by mixing the colors of the dots optically (Duchting & Seurat, 75). Viewing the painting must be done at a distance so the viewer would be able to make sense of the form or image as well as the combination of colors used by the artist in the painting.
Pointillism has influenced other subsequent artistic movements. Pointillism is essentially a neo-impressionism technique, which was created by Georges-Paul Seurat, with the help of Paul Signac, in the 1880s (Ounjai & Kaewkamnerdpong, 131). Nonetheless, this style has influenced other movements in art including post-impressionism and divisionism. Some post-impressionist painters adopted Pointillism as part of their style and technique. Pointillism has also influenced other contemporary works such as Optical Art and computer-generated artistic images.
Georges-Paul Seurat developed Pointillism as a technique in paintings. Seurat was born in Paris in 1859. He was a French painter and drafstman, and founder of New Impressionism. During his study at the Paris National Art School, he learned about Impressionist painting. Surrounded by traditional Renaissance, he should have become a very traditional and conservative painter, but he did not. After the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci’s works redefined classical painting that dominated Europe. Classical painting emphasized realism and focused on the reduction of objects, butoften followed rigid limits that also limited painters’ inspiration. Seurat’s Pointillism, on the other hand, focuses on the arrangement of dots on canvas and relies on the interpretation of viewers.
Seurat became a Neo-Impressionist and is remembered as the pioneer of this movement’s technique commonly known as Divisionism or Pointillism. His painting is charming, the kind of Pointillism that represents Neo-Impressionist. He was largely influenced by other artists such as Monet and Raphael. Monet was Seurat’s teacher and other artists’ and scientists’ influence on him proves that Pointillism is not entirely his invention. Monet may have applied in Pointillism in his Impressionist art but was unlike Seurat’s Pointillist style which is more beautiful. Seurat focused on expressing feelings and his art relied on the viewers’ objectivity.
Seurat created Pointillism due to his interest in Physics and Chemistry. He was inspired by concepts in color and optics. Furthermore, Seurat learned about the value of perception in art. Perception is an important aspect of Pointillism. The values of a Pointillist painting largely depends on the perception of the viewer. It is the role of the viewer to interpret the painting or other images created using colored dots. The viewer interprets the quality and combination of colors used in the painting. Hence, Pointillism is seemingly a collaborative art that combines the artist’s ability to use and combine colors based on color theories and concepts to create forms or images using dots.
Pointillism is therefore, rooted on science and logic. Seurat created Pointillism not only based on color theory but also on the concept of optics, specifically the ability of the human eye to perceive color (Kleiner, 664). The color theory taught during the 19th Century contributes to Pointillism as both an art and science. Seurat used the color theory to establish the basis for Pointillism. As an experiment, Seurat painted two dots of different colors side by side. The results of the experiment proved that as a viewer, an individual is capable of blending two different colors (Dickerson, 189).
Aside from other renowned artist, Seurat’s style was also significantly influenced by concepts and practices in chemistry and physics. Seurat took interest in chemistry and physics concepts, which have influenced his style and techniques in art. Ogden Root, a chemist during the 1800s, published his works in Modern Chromatics, with Applications to Art and Industry. Seurat used Root’s ideas in the text to create the main form of Pointillism using colored Dots. Root suggested that “artists could achieve gradation by placing small dots or lines of color side by side, which he observed would blend in the eye of the beholder when viewed from a distance” (Kleiner, 664). Seurat also studied the work of Michel-Eugene Chevreul, a chemist who wrote The Laws of Contrast Color. According to Chevreul, “two adjacent colors would reflect each other’s complimentary color” (Dickerson, 189). Both Rood and Chevreul’s work explain the origins and foundation of pointillism – the use of dots side by side for the viewer’s own interpretation and of contrast in order to project complimentary colors on canvas.
Color has various elements. Hue, saturation, and value are the main elements of color. Hue refers to the type of color (e.g. blue, red, or yellow). Saturation refers to the brightness or dullness of the color. Value is the lightness or darkness of color. Discussing hue, saturation, and value is highly important in explaining human being’s perception of color. Artists use pure color and combine them using their own styles and techniques to create images. Good art works employ artistic contrast and the appropriate selection of hues. These qualities are important in creating a pointillist art work because “juxtaposed colors affect the eye’s reception of each [color], making the two colors as dissimilar as possible, both in hue and in value” (Kleiner, 664). The artist’s selection of color and arrangement of colored dots on the canvass largely affects how viewers perceive color.
Aside from chemistry and physics concepts that contribute to color theories, psychological concepts also contributed to Seurat’s theory on pointillism. Psychological concepts about color also contributed to Seurat’s theory on Pointillism. The concept of human perception plays an important role in guiding Pointillism. The Gestalt theory also influences Pointillism because it illustrates the capacity of human beings to see small parts as a whole. Human perception and the Gestalt theory illustrate how human beings – the viewers – are capable of interpreting and viewing Pointillist images as a whole at a certain distance (Society for Gestalt Theory and its Applications, 16).
Several art works illustrate Pointillism best. Prominent Pointillist paintings include Seurat’s Bathers at Asnieres (1884) and A Sunday Afternoon at the Ile Le Grande Jatte (1886), and Signac’s The Papal Palace, Avignon (1900s). Bathers at Asnieres, which may be viewed at the National Gallery in London,is a painting illustrating the riverside along the River Seine in Paris. Seurat used oil on canvas as medium. The painting illustrates people bathing by the river and resting by the riverside. The backdrop of the painting show the sailing boats as well as houses and other buildings in the distance.
Bathers at Asnieres (1884) is important because it is the best and earliest representation of Pointillism. It is commonly used for performance practices because it illustrates the technical aspects of Pointillism. The art work illustrates the effort that goes into Pointillist art on the part of the artist. Seurat applied different techniques to show light and shadows in the painting. Furthermore, Seurat applied a combination of techniques to show the bright, washed out color of the painting. Seurat’s work in Bathers at Asnieres was described as a combination of “solidity and clarity of form with vibrating intensity of light” (Chilvers, 497). Seurat used different strokes to create different textures in the painting. Bathers at Asnieres also show Seurat’s Impressionist influences with his use of light to establish the mood and atmosphere of the image (Duchting & Seurat, 22).
Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon at the Ile de La Grande Jatte (1886) marked the beginning of the Neo-Impressionist movement despite the artist’s earlier works that incorporated pointillism. Seurat’s painting illustrates wealthy Parisians – men, women, and children – strolling by the riverbank while the others sit on the grass and under the shade. The distinct characteristic of A Sunday Afternoon is that the dots illustrate a clear image instead of a blurry, dreamlike image in other pointillist works (Dickerson, 189). Viewers will see the small dots when they are near the painting (Braunbeck, 78). Another important quality of A Sunday is the artist’s use of depth to form dimensions in the painting. “By using meticulously calculated values, the painter carved out a deep rectangular space. [Seurat] played on repeated motifs to create flat patterns and to suggest spatial depth” (Kleiner, 664). A Sunday Afternoon plays an important role in illustrating skill in painting using dots wherein the viewer do not see the dots in the painting from a distance. Hence, the dots on the painting are not noticeable, which makes A Sunday Afternoon a clear masterpiece of Pointillist art by Seurat.
Signac continued the Neo Impressionist tradition even after the death of Seurat. Signac’s The Papal Palace, Avignon (1990s) is palpably distinct from Seurat’s work because the artist used larger dots, similar to strokes used in Divisionism, thereby making the image appear blurry and dreamlike. Signac used oil on canvas to paint The Papal Palace. Despite this difference from Seurat’s work, The Papal Palace still illustrates Pointillism because of how Signac used contrasting colors and large dots or images to create the image (Grimme & Wolf, 84).
As formerly noted, Pointillism is a style used in Neo Impressionism. Neo Impressionism was a French art movement that both grew from and challenged Impressionism (Chilvers, 497). Neo Impressionism focused on establishing the scientific basis of Impressionist art, particularly the use of color and light in paintings. Seurat, Signac, and Camille Pissarro, a famous theorist during that time, spearheaded Neo Impressionism. From a theoretical standpoint, Neo Impressionism was based on Divisionism. The main difference between Divisionism and Pointillism is that the latter used dots that are circular in shape as well as smaller in size (Chilvers, 297). The paintings previously discussed illustrate Neo Impressionism, particularly Pointillism as well as divisionism, and show the influences of Impressionism on Seurat and Signac’s work.
In modern art, Pointillism influenced Optical Art, an artistic movement during the 1960s. Op Art artists “sought to produce optical illusions of promotion and depth using only geometric forms on two-dimensional surfaces” (Kleiner, 961). An example of an Op Art that illustrates Pointillism is Bridget Riley’s Fission (1963). In Fission, Riley painted black dots on canvas. The dots were of varying shapes and sizes to create an illusion. “Riley filled the canvas with black dots of varied sizes and shapes, creating the illusion of a pulsating surface that caves in at the center” (Kleiner, 961).
Pointillism’s influence in modern art is also palpable in its adoption in computer-generated art. Kruger and Worgotter explored symbolic pointillism as an influence to computer generated art that is best motivated by human perception. As formerly noted, Pointillism is the arrangement of different colors of dots on canvas to form lines or images. Modern artists adopted Seurat’s art innovation to develop computer-generated art based on the patterns and grouping of dots on pointillist images and the calculated elements or qualities of these dots including the phase, variance, and orientation of the dot, the homogeneity of the dot, the step edge that differentiates the left and right side of the dots, the line, and the grouping of the dots (Kruger & Worgotter). The application of Pointillism in modern art in the form of computer-generated images illustrates that this style follows a repetitive pattern that allows the contemporary artist to recreate Pointillism using technology. This practice also proves that Pointillism is a science that could be mechanized using technology to recreate Pointillist art.
Pointillism is a difficult and time consuming painting style. One of the challenges of pointillism is that it consumes time. Furthermore, the artist must know the role or purpose of the different elements of color – hue, saturation, and value – to skillfully combine colors and follow Pointillist patterns to form images or subjects. Nonetheless, this makes pointillism a means of learning to be patient as an artist. Furthermore, Pointillism represents impressionist art in the artistic community in terms of the use of light and contrast in color. For this reason, Pointillism represents Impressionism, and therefore, promotes this art movement in the artistic community.
Learning about Pointillism is interesting from more than just an art history point of view. The masters of Pointillism created stunning masterpieces using this technique, but anyone can understand the basic concepts behind it. Pointillism has also left its mark in art, which is why it influences past and present. Influences of theories and concepts on color are inherent in modern art movements and styles such as Optic Art and computer-generated images. Pointillism introduced innovation in art by introducing the science of creating forms by using different pure colors and dots. In addition, Pointillism is also a collaborative art because the interpretation of images depend on how the viewers blend or mix colors through their eyes.
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Kleiner, Fred.Gardner’s Art through the Ages: The Western Perspective, Vol. 2. Florence, KY: Cengage Learning, 2009.
Kleiner, Fred. Gardner’s Art through the Ages: Modern Europe and America. Florence, KY: Cengage Learning, 2015.
Kruger, Norbert & Worgotter, Florentin. Symbolic Pointillism: Computer Art motivated by Human Perception. Artificial Intelligence and Creativity in Arts and Science, 2003.
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Society for Gestalt Theory and its Applications. Gestalt Theory: Official Journal of the Society for Gestalt theory and its Applications. Darmstadt: Steinkopff, 2007.
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