Pointillism is a technique of painting in which small, distinct dots of color are applied in patterns to form an image.
Georges Seurat and Paul Signac developed the technique in 1886, branching from Impressionism. The term "Pointillism" was coined by art critics in the late 1880s to ridicule the works of these artists, and is now used without its earlier mocking connotation. The movement Seurat began with this technique is known as Neo-impressionism. The Divisionists, too, used a similar technique of patterns to form images, though with larger cube-like brushstrokes.
The technique relies on the ability of the eye and mind of the viewer to blend the color spots into a fuller range of tones. It is related to Divisionism, a more technical variant of the method. Divisionism is concerned with color theory, whereas pointillism is more focused on the specific style of brushwork used to apply the paint. It is a technique with few serious practitioners today, and is notably seen in the works of Seurat, Signac and Cross. However, see also Andy Warhol's early works, and Pop Art.
Both Robert Delaunay and Jean Metzinger between 1905 and 1907 painted in a Divisionist style with large squares or 'cubes' of color: the size and direction of each gave a sense of rhythm to the painting, yet color varied independently of size and placement. This form of Divisionism was a significant step beyond the preoccupations of Signac and Cross. In 1906 the art critic Louis Chassevent recognized the difference and, as art historian Daniel Robbins pointed out, used the word "cube" which would later be taken up by Louis Vauxcelles to baptize Cubism. Chassevent writes:
The practice of Pointillism is in sharp contrast to the traditional methods of blending pigments on a palette. Pointillism is analogous to the four-color CMYK printing process used by some color printers and large presses that place dots of Cyan (blue), Magenta (red), Yellow, and Key (black). Televisions and computer monitors use a similar technique to represent image colors using Red, Green, and Blue (RGB) colors.
If red, blue, and green light (the additive primaries) are mixed, the result is something close to white light (see Prism (optics)). Painting is inherently subtractive, but Pointillist colors often seem brighter than typical mixed subtractive colors. This may be partly because subtractive mixing of the pigments is avoided, and because some of the white canvas may be showing between the applied dots.
The majority of Pointillism is done in oil paint. Anything may be used in its place, but oils are preferred for their thickness and tendency not to run or bleed.
Pointillé is commonly used for intricate binding of hand-made book covers in the seventeenth century , the decoration of metallic arms and armor, and for the decoration of hand-finished firearms.
Pointillism also refers to a style of 20th-century music composition. Different musical notes are made in seclusion, rather than in a linear sequence, giving a sound texture similar to the painting version of Pointillism. This type of music is also known as punctualism or klangfarbenmelodie.
and Angles, Tones, and Tints, Portrait of M. Félix Fénéon in 1890 by Paul Signac
Georges-Pierre Seurat, 1884-1886, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (French: Un dimanche après-midi à l'Île de la Grande Jatte), 207.6 x 308 cm, Art Institute of Chicago
Théo Van Rysselberghe, 1899, His wife Maria and daughter Elisabeth
Robert Delaunay, 1906, Portrait de Metzinger, oil on canvas, 55 x 43 cm
Hippolyte Petitjean, 1919, Femmes au bain, oil on canvas, 61.1 X 46 cm, private collection