Seurat, Signac, Van Gogh - Ways of Pointillism
The definition of Pointillism is formidably simple: to paint with colour dots. However, the genesis and impact of this technique is anything but simple, while it reflects the spirit of a key period in the history of art: Neoimpressionism. Originally named Chromoluminarism (colour-light painting) or Divisionism by George Seurat, eventually Paul Signac’s term „Pointillism“ gained wider acceptance.
Initially, the epicentre of Pointillism was Paris, with Seurat and Signac as main protagonists who influenced each other.
Early on in his career, Seurat showed a special interest for landscapes and their colours, Delacroix being on of his greatest influences, he shared a preference for lively and earthy colours with him. The challenge for Seurat was quite complex: Combining the scientific findings of optics with the emotions that a painting should be able to convey. Without mixing the primary colours on the canvas and by carefully placing dots into his compositions, he managed to achieve spectacular calmness and harmony in his images. Seurat was a great admirer of Piero della Francesca, Ingres and Poussin.
Seurat and Signac met at the „Society of Independent Artists“, a group that enabled artists who were repudiated by the critics because of supposedly daring or lacking technique to have exhibitions on a regular basis. This was also the criticism of Monet and Renoir, who withdrew their own pictures from the Impressionist exhibtition in 1886, when Pissarro wanted the young painters to participate, which was unacceptable to Monet and Renoir.
As evident in the Albertina exhibition, Pointillism was an era of pioneers that prepared the ground for modernism – Pissarro, Van Gogh, Picasso and Delauney were influenced by this movement, at least at some stage of their career.
The influence of Pointillism is noticable to this day, among others in the work of Chuck Close, and it had great influence on Op Art and the Italian avant-garde of the 20th century, like in the case of Umberto Boccioni or Giacomo Balla.
In cooperation with the Dutch Kröller-Müller Museum and curated by Heinz Widauer, Seurat, Signac, Van Gogh retraces the history of Pointillism, from the beginnings in 1886 to the afterglow of its influence in the 1930ies. Starting by the works of the pioneers Seurat, Signac and Théo van Rysselberghe, the exhibition shows the evolution towards modernism, up to Henri-Edmond Cross, Picasso, Mondrian and van Gogh, who pursued his own independent path. (written by Cem Angeli)