Henri Matisse (1869-1954) Luxe, calme et volupté, 1904-1955
Georges Seurat (1859-1891) A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, 1884
Neo-Impressionism is a term applied to an avant-garde art movement that flourished principally in France from 1886-1906. Led by the example of Georges Seurat, artists of the Neo-Impressionist circle renounced the random spontaneity of Impressionism in favor of a measured painting technique grounded in science and the study of optics.
Encouraged by contemporary writing on color theory -the treatises of Charles Henry, Eugène Chevreul and Odgen Rood for example- Neo-Impressionists came to believe that separate touches of interwoven pigment result in a greater vibrancy of color in the observer's eye than is achieved by the conventional mixing of pigments on the palette. Known as mélange optique (optical mixture), this meticulous paint application would, they felt, realize a pulsating shimmer of light on the canvas. In the words of the artist Paul Signac, Neo-Impressionism's greatest propagandist, "the separated elements will be reconstituted into brilliantly colored lights". The separation of color through individual strokes of pigment came to be known as Divisionism, while the application of precise dots of paint came to be called Pointillism.
Angelo Morbelli - Battello sul Lago Maggiore
Angrand Charles (1854-1926) Antoine endormi
Artists of the Neo-Impressionist circle renounced the random spontaneity of Impressionism in favor of a measured painting technique grounded in science and the study of optics.
The art critic Félix Fénéon first used the term "Neo-Impressionism" to describe the paintings of Georges Seurat, Paul Signac, Camille Pissarro and his son Lucien Pissarro, at the eighth and last Impressionist exhibition in Paris in 1886. Seurat debuted his masterpiece A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, a virtual manifesto for the Neo-Impressionist technique. His manner of weaving and layering small brushstrokes indeed achieved a tapestry-like paint surface of complementary and contrasting hues. Even Vincent van Gogh admired Seurat's expansive palette, noting on a visit to Seurat's studio the "fresh revelation of color".
Neo-Impressionism cast its allure far and wide, traversing generations and national boundaries. Camille Pissarro (View from My Window) was among the first to embrace Seurat's system of color harmony, recognizing it as "a new phase in the logical march of Impressionism".
In Belgium, where French Neo-Impressionism debuted at the exhibition of Les XX in 1887, Théo Van Rysselberghe adopted Seurat's idiosyncratic technique, as did other avant-garde artists.
Some years later, even Henri Matisse tipped his hat to Neo-Impressionism when he joined Paul Signac and Henri-Edmond Cross (Henri-Edmond Delacroix) in Saint-Tropez in the summer of 1904, and painted Luxe, calme et volupté, an imaginary figural landscape painted in divided brush marks of glowing color.
Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) Mother Lucien's Yard, 1895
Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) View from My Window, 1886
Georges Seurat's powerful presence as the leader of Neo-Impressionism resonated among artists for decades. Charles Angrand's self-portrait bears a striking resemblance to Seurat's shadowy sheets drawn in black crayon. Henri-Edmond Cross and Hippolyte Petitjean adapted the Divisionist technique to watercolor painting. In Saint-Clair, a village on the Côte d'Azur near Saint-Tropez, Cross painted radiant landscapes in watercolor, using a vivid palette of saturated color in mosaic-like brush marks. Petitjean's watercolors mastered the art of Pointillism to decorative perfection. In the early twentieth century, Fauve artists turned to Seurat's technique for purity of color.
Even abstract painters Mondrian and Kandinsky practiced Pointillism.
Were it not for Paul Signac, Neo-Impressionism might have lost all momentum following the early death of Seurat in 1891.
Signac inherited the Divisionist banner and lobbied tirelessly on its behalf. It was Signac who introduced Seurat's system of color harmony to the vanguard critics and writers who would champion it, and it was he who published the influential treatise D'Eugène Delacroix au Néo-Impressionisme (1899), an argument for Neo-Impressionism as the logical and legitimate successor to Impressionism. In Signac's own work, the rigor and restraint of his early paintings gave way to a bold and luxuriant palette in later years (Grand Canal, Venice). His marine watercolors, in particular, enabled him to explore the purity and clarity of color, with no more than a pencil and a box of watercolors in his itinerant pocket.
If Neo-Impressionism ultimately marked only a brief passage from the plein-air painting of Impressionism in the nineteenth century to radiant Fauvism and the geometry of Cubism in the twentieth, it codified a language essential to modernism and brought with it a new text of independent form and color. | © The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Charles Angrand (1854-1926) Couple in the street, 1887
Charles Angrand (1854-1926)
Charles Angrand (1854-1926) Path in Country, c.1886
Charles Blanc's Grammaire des arts du dessin introduced Seurat to the theories of color and vision that would inspire chromoluminarism. Blanc's work, drawing from the theories of Michel Eugène Chevreul and Eugène Delacroix, stated that optical mixing would produce more vibrant and pure colors than the traditional process of mixing pigments. Mixing pigments physically is a subtractive process with cyan, magenta, and yellow being the primary colors. On the other hand, if colored light is mixed together, an additive mixture results, a process in which the primary colors are red, green and blue. The optical mixture which characterized Divisionism -the process of mixing color by juxtaposing pigments - is different from either additive or subtractive mixture, although combining colors in optical mixture functions the same way as additive mixture, i.e. the primary colors are the same.
In reality, Seurat's paintings did not actually achieve true optical mixing; for him, the theory was more useful for causing vibrations of color to the viewer, where contrasting colors placed near each other would intensify the relationship between the colors while preserving their singular separate identity.
Charles Angrand (1854-1926) Self-portrait, 1892
Charles Angrand - The Annunciation to the Shepherds, 1894
In Divisionist color theory, artists interpreted the scientific literature through making light operate in one of the following contexts:
Local color: As the dominant element of the painting, local color refers to the true color of subjects, e.g. green grass or blue sky.
Direct sunlight: As appropriate, yellow-orange colors representing the sun’s action would be interspersed with the natural colors to emulate the effect of direct sunlight.
Shadow: If lighting is only indirect, various other colors, such as blues, reds and purples, can be used to simulate the darkness and shadows.
Reflected light: An object which is adjacent to another in a painting could cast reflected colors onto it.
Contrast: To take advantage of Chevreul’s theory of simultaneous contrast, contrasting colors might be placed in close proximity.
Seurat’s theories intrigued many of his contemporaries, as other artists seeking a reaction against Impressionism joined the Neo-Impressionist movement.
Paul Signac, in particular, became one of the main proponents of Divisionist theory, especially after Seurat’s death in 1891. In fact, Signac’s book, D’Eugène Delacroix au Néo-Impressionnisme, published in 1899, coined the term Divisionism and became widely recognized as the manifesto of Neo-Impressionism.
Charles Angrand (1854-1926) The Harvesters
Charles Angrand (1854-1926) The Western
Railway at its Exit from Paris, 1886
Divisionism in France and Northern EuropeIn addition to Signac, other French artists, largely through associations in the Société des Artistes Indépendants, adopted some Divisionist techniques, including Camille and Lucien Pissarro, Albert Dubois-Pillet, Charles Angrand, Maximilien Luce, Henri-Edmond Cross and Hippolyte Petitjean. Additionally, through Paul Signac’s advocacy of Divisionism, an influence can be seen in some of the works of Vincent van Gogh, Henri Matisse, Jean Metzinger, Robert Delaunay and Pablo Picasso.
In 1907 Metzinger and Delaunay were singled out by the critic Louis Vauxcelles as Divisionists who used large, mosaic-like 'cubes' to construct small but highly symbolic compositions. Both artists had develop a new sub-style that had great significance shortly thereafter within the context of their Cubist works. Piet Mondrian, in the Netherlands, developed a similar mosaic-like Divisionist technique circa 1909.
The Futurists later (1909-1916) would adapt the style, in part influenced by Gino Severini's Parisian experience (from 1907), into their dynamic paintings and sculpture.
Divisionism in ItalyThe influence of Seurat and Signac on some Italian painters became evident in the First Triennale in 1891 in Milan. Spearheaded by Grubicy de Dragon, and codified later by Gaetano Previati in his Principi scientifici del divisionismo of 1906, a number of painter mainly in Northern Italy experimented to various degrees with these techniques.
Pellizza da Volpedo applied the technique to social (and political) subjects; in this he was joined by Morbelli and Longoni. Among Pelliza’s Divisionist works were Speranze deluse (1894) and Il sole nascente (1904). It was, however, in the subject of landscapes that divisionism found strong advocates, including Segantini, Previati, Morbelli, and Carlo Fornara. Further adherents in painting genre subjects were Plinio Nomellini, Rubaldo Merello, Giuseppe Cominetti, Angelo Barabino, Camillo Innocenti, Enrico Lionne, and Arturo Noci. Divisionism was also in important influence in the work of Futurists Gino Severini (Souvenirs de Voyage, 1911); Giacomo Balla (Arc Lamp, 1909); Carlo Carrà (Leaving the scene, 1910); and Umberto Boccioni (The City Rises, 1910).
Charles Angrand (1854-1926) Path in Country, c.1886
List of Neo-Impressionist Artists
Gaetano Previati - Il carro del sole, c. 1900
Georges Lemmen (1865-1916) - Heyst No.9 The Beach, 1891
Georges Lemmen (1865-1916) The Beach at Heist, 1891
Georges Lemmen (1865-1916) Madame Lemmen Reading, 1907
Georges Seurat (1859-1891) Circus Sideshow, 1887–88
Maximilien Luce - Le bon samaritain, 1896
Maximilien Luce - Notre-Dame de Paris, 1900
Nomellini Plinio (1866-1943) La Colonne de fumée
Nomellini Plinio (1866-1943) The First Birthday, 1914
Paul Signac - Portrait de Félix Fénéon, 1890
Robert Antoine Pinchon - La Seine à Rouen au crépuscule, 1905
Il Puntinismo, dal francese Pointillisme, è una tecnica pittorica, sviluppatosi in Francia verso il 1885. Derivante dell'Impressionismo, la tecnica del Puntinismo, scomponeva i colori in piccoli punti, per ottenere dei colori puri, non mischiati. L'idea di questa tecnica voleva ottenere la possibilità di poter constatare l'inesistenza di un colore locale, perché ciascun colore viene influenzato dal colore cui è posto accanto e quindi, i colori non dovranno essere mescolati in pennellate ma accostati, soprattutto i colori complementari, per così creare il contrasto simultaneo. Con questa tecnica, la fusione dei colori non avviene nel quadro ma raggiungere la retina dell'osservatore. Di qua anche l'altra definizione della stessa tecnica, il Divisionismo, per il quale non è importante la forma delle pennellate ma la divisione dei colori.L’ideatore del Puntinismo/Divisionismo fu Georges Seurat 1859-1891 con il celebre dipinto "Una domenica pomeriggio sull'isola della Grande Jatte", in cui esprime l'essenza pittorica della corrente.
L'altro esponente della stessa tecnica fu il francese Paul Signac 1863-1935, il quale riprese il metodo di Seurat usando però delle pennellate più larghe, a zone rettangolari o quadrate. Per un certo periodo Seurat e Signac lavorano insieme, orientando la loro ricerca nel senso di un programma di impressionisti, cioè conservando il Romanticismo, e riproporlo in termini scientifici. Ed ecco che nasce il Neo-Impressionismo, che pose l'esigenza del rapporto e l'equilibro tra la scienza e l'arte.
In Italia, gli esponenti di rilievo del movimento furono Andrea D'Agostino, Gaetano Previati, Pellizza da Volpedo e Segantini, che a differenza dei francesi, non provenivano dall'Impressionismo ma comunque dal tardo Romanticismo. Previati con il suo trattato intitolato "La tecnica della pittura" si propose come il teorico del movimento, che dalla seconda generazione in poi tenderà a sfociare nel Futurismo.