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".
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