29 Şubat 2012 Çarşamba


"The Neo-Impressionist does not dot, he divides." Paul Signac, 1899

At the suggestion of Camille Pisarro, (one of the founders of the Impressionism -my previous title- ) works with his son, Lucien, and two other young French painters Paul Signac and Georges Seurat were included in the last Impressionist exhibition held in 1886. The new pictures were hung seperately from the main exhibition, inviting critics to compare the old and new understanding of Impressionism. The strategy was successful and the new paintings did collect attention. Félix Fénéon's critics were positive as in underlining the origin and it's development into New-Impressionism. By the early 1880s many of the Impressionists felt that Impressionism had gone too far in dematerializing the object and had become too ephemeral (short-living) . This concern was shared by younger artists such as Seurat (left) (One of his paintings under his portrait).

In his early work The Bathers at Asniéres(1884) (right side) he tries to retain(keep) Impressionist luminosity while reconstituting the object. Although this is a picture in urban leisure and seems to represent spontaneity, it was tried with oil sketches 14 times and was painted in the studio instead of outdoors.  Signac discovered this newish style and realized the common interest they both have as in colour theory and optics. They began to work together on their theory of "divisionism". Their research led them to scientific studies on the transmission and perception of light and colour, such as the book about colours and modern Chromatics applied to art and industry written (1881) by Ogden Rood and most importantly "Principle of Harmony and Contrast of colours and their application to arts(1839) by Michel-Eugéne Chevreul. Signac even found Chevreul who is by the way 98 years old at that time, to interview him about his discoveries. He learned that contrasting colours stimulate each other. Signac and Seurat held on that. So the Neo-Impressionists developped their difference and style scientifically. They perfected a tecnique for applying dots of colour on the canvas so that they blended when viewed at an appropriate distance. Fénéon named it "pointillism".

A painting by Seurat

Seurat's canvas Sunday Afternoon on the island of La Grande Jatte(1884-86) (up-right) was included in the 1886 exhibition.The similarities with the Impressionism movement is observable. The critique of limitations and the unique style is also noticeable. The monumental scene is a combination of familiar Impressionist subjects but it captures not so much the fleeting moment, as a feeling of eternity. He says "I want to show the moderns moving about on friezes(wall ornamentation) in the same way, stripped in to their essentials." "The art of hollowing out a surface" he describes his painting. A deep, continuous space contrasting with the sense of flatness and shifting perspective. The work unites classic Renaissance perspective and modern interest in light,colour and surface pattern.

This group surrounding Signac and Seurat quickly expanded to include Charles Angrand, Henri-Edmond Cross, Albert Dubois-Pillet, Léo Gausson, Maximilien Luce and Hippolyte Petitjean. Signac was also close to a number of Symbolist writers, including Fénéon, Kahn, Henri de Régnier, who admired Neo-Impressionism for it's symbolic and "expressive" nature.

Henri-Edmond Cross                  Léo Gausson


Maximilien Luce                  Charles Angrand


Albert Dubois-Pillet              Hippolyte Petitjean

Neo-Impressionist imagery was also influenced by progressive aesthetic theories of the day, such as those of Charles Henry and others, which dealt with physiological responses to lines and colours. Like; horizontal lines induced calm, upward-sloping lines, happiness, downward-sloping lines sadness. In 1890 Seurat wrote:

"Art is harmony. Harmony is the analogy of contrary and of similar elements of tone, of colour and of line, considered according to their dominants and under the influence of light in gay, calm or sad combinations."

Seurat died only a year later, at the age of 31. His friendship with Signac and Pisarro had been under strain, and there had been arguements about who invented Neo-Impressionist techniques. His influence on future currents of art was profound.

In 1899, Neo-Impressionism was given a new lease of life in France with the publication of Signac's From Eugéne Delacroix to Neoimpressionism. In the book he explained the Neo-Impressionists' working practice for a new generation of artists.

"Now to divide is:
To assure oneself of all the benefits of luminosity, of colouring and of harmony by;
1.The optical mixture of solely pure pigments.
2.The seperation of local colours from the colour of the light, reflections, etc.
3.The equilibrium of those elements and their proportions (according to the laws of contrast, of gradation and of irradation)
4.The choice of a brushstroke commensurate with the dimensions of the painting."

Portrait of Félix Fénéon painted by Paul Signac

A wide range of artists, including Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin and Henri Matisse experimented with Neo-Impressionism during their careers. This movement helped shape styles and sourced other movements
like Art Nouveau, De Stijl, Orphism, Synchromism, Symbolism, Abstract expressionism and Pop Art.

As the first of a new breed of artist-scientists Seurat and Signac also form part of a different art history, which finds expression in Russian Constructivism and the Kinetic Art of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and Jean Tinguely, and experimental groups of 1950s and 1960s such as GRAV.

*Art in the Modern Era, A. Dempsey
*Neo-Impressionism, R.L. Herbert
*Georges Seurat,1859-1891 , R.L. herbert


Impressionism was born in April 1874 when a group of young artists in Paris, frustrated with the continual exclusion of their works from the official Salons, joined together to hold their own exhibition in the studio of photographer Félix Nadar.(below)

There were thirty painters who exhibited as the Société Anonyme des Artistes Peintres, Sculpteurs, Graveurs, etc. including Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, Berthe Morisot, Paul Cézanne. Other French Impressionists exhibiting later are Jean-Frédéric Bazille, Gustave Caillebotte and the American Mary Cassatt. The exhibition in 1874 had avoken curiosity and confusion by the public, and derision from the popular press and the title of Monet's Impression, Sunrise(1872) provided the name of the group.  "Impressionists"                                           Monet(1840-1926)
                                                                                                                                           Impression,Sunrise (1872)

Years later Monet told the story behind the naming of the picture as:
"They wanted to know it's title for the catalogue; because it couldn't really pass for a view of Le Havre. I replied 'Use Impression' Someone derived 'Impressionism' from it and that's when the fun began"

The sketch-like quality and apparent lack of finish to their work, to which many early critics objected, were exactly the qualities that more sympatethic critics would later identify as their strength. The real power uniting this variety of artists together was their rejection of art establishment. They had faith in the Renaissance ideals like; "the subject of art must be noble or instructive" and that "the value of a work of art could be judged by it's descriptive 'likeness' to natural objects".

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) 

Since the mid-19th century Paris became the first truely modern metropolis (physically and socially) many Impressionists worked to capture this new Parisian cityscape. The Impressionists were self-consciously modern as in  techniques, theories, practices and in variety of subjects. To paint what eye saw instead of what the artist knew, was as revolutionary as their practice of working outdoors (instead of solely studio) to observe the play of light and colours. They insisted on the fleeting moments of modern life " a spontaneous work" rather than a calculated one.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                A painting of Renoir 

Throughout the 1860s Impressionists absorded the previous generations' lessons and developed their styles, often painting together or meeting to discuss their works and share ideas. Between 1874 and 1886 they managed to attract writers like Emile Zola and J.K. Huysmans and private patrons and dealers. It is not an exaggeration to say that throughout the 1870s most Impressionist works were concerned with the effects of light on landscapes. But in early 1880s a change occured usually called as "Impressionist crisis". Many of the artists began to feel that in trying to capture the light they had eroded the figure too far, and from that moment the movement became more diverse. Renoir for example turned to a more classical style of figure painting. Monet made his figures more solid. Paul Gauguin (Synthetism), Paul Cézanne (Post-Impressionism), Georges Seutrat and Paul Signac (Neo-Impressionism) eventually created their own styles.

For many people, Monet remains the Impressionist par excellence; his paintings of the railway station, Gare Saint-Lazaer(1876-77), which combine and contrast the modern architecture of the station with the new modernist atmosphere, have been called the most representetive Impressionist paintings. Towards the end of his life from 1914 to 1923, Monet devoted himself to 8 huge waterlily canvases for a designated room at the Orangerie in the Tuileries,Paris. The paintings create an environment which entirely surrounds the viewer, a sense of infinity or "instability of the universe transforming itself under our eyes" as Monet said.

(Gare Saint-lazare by Monet -left/up
Dancing at the Moulin de la Galette by Renoir -right/down)

Renoir, on the other hand was more interested in human figure although he used to paint with Monet in 1860s.

Renoir later combined his interest in classicism with the lessons of Impressionism. His brush strokes became looser and more gestural, and some critics have seen Renoir's late works as well as Monet's, as examples of Abstract Expressionism.

Edgar Degas' work was shown in seven of the eight Impressionist group exhibitons, but he always considered himself a realist, proclaiming:
"No art was ever less spontaneous than mine. What I do is the result of reflection and study of the great masters; of inspiration,spontaneity, temperament, I know nothing."

Edgar Degas                                                                                                                                                       A painting by Degas
He learned from Impressionism how to use the light to convey a sense of volume and movement in his work. Degas would sketch in front of a scene, but preferred to continue work in studio; it was 'much better to draw what you see only in your mind. During such transformation the imagination collaborates with the memory... Then your memory and your imagination are freed from tyranny(dictatorial) imposed by nature' according to him.
Berthe Morisot

Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt were two most noticeable women who exhibited with the Impressionists. Their use of line and painterly freedom and their choice of intimate scenes as subject matter, display similarities with the work of Eduard Manet                
and Degas.

                                                                                                                                                                 A painting by Berthe Morisot

By the late 1880s and 90s Impressionism was accepted as a valid artistic style, and spread throughout Europe and USA. Around the end of century, Germany was particularly receptive to outside influences, and the new French techniques were grafted onto the prevailing native naturalism. Max Liebermann, Max Slevogt and Lovis Corinth remain the most famous German Impressionists.

Despite the sculptures by Degas and Renoir there were no sculptures directly associated with the movement. However; French sculptor Auguste Rodin and Italien one Medardo Rosso were termed Impressionists.

Impressionists' actions and experiments symbolized the rejection of traditional judgment values. It was a step closer to artistic freedom and innovation. Beginning of Modernism, initiating a process that would revolutionize the conception and perception of the artistic object. Most important of all, Impressionism can be seen as the start of the struggle to free painting and sculpture from its solely descriptive duty in order to create a new language and a relation to other art forms such as music and poetry.

*Art in The Modern Era, A.Dempsey
*The great book of French Impressionism, D.Kelder
*The Impressionists at First Hand, B.Denvir
*Impressionism, B.Thomson