What Is the History of Pointillism?


Quick Answer

The core period of the pointillist movement in art lasted about a decade, reaching its full flowering between 1880 and 1890. Pointillism claimed origins within the Impressionist movement that directly preceded it and is most commonly associated with the works of painters Georges Seurat and Paul Signac.

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One of the major innovations of the Impressionist movement had been the peculiar new brand of brush strokes it introduced. Most significantly, the Impressionists enjoyed using short punctuated strokes that often created a blurred effect to the image when viewed close up, thus causing the viewer to retreat further away to best appreciate the composition. Pointillism adopted and intensified this technique, shortening the previously short Impressionist brush strokes into single dots or points of color. The smaller the dots were, the easier it was to make out lines and shapes in the piece.

Originally, Seurat called the new style divisionism; however, it was later changed to pointillism. Although the actual height of pointillism was short-lived, it was influential for later artists; Vincent Van Gogh experimented with the style in at least one well-known self portrait. The conceptual premises of pointillism were also influential in the domain of musical composition. Composers in the associated style of punctualism, or klangfarbenmelodie, tended to use single musical notes in isolated ways to contrast with traditional, linearly constructed melodies, giving a kind of auditory equivalent to the pointillist image.

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