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Was pointillism just another passing fancy?

Georges Seurat, a young painter who died young too, painted in a peculiar manner. Today, most of us, familiar with the names of the various art-movements, know the term Pointillism. And just one glance on the following image leaves no doubt about the process adopted in painting it.

The grainy surface tells us that the painting was done by painstaking placement of one dot next to the other by very fine brushes.

In fact, this very painting, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, took two years for the artist to complete!

Why not?

After all, it is madness to fill six square meter of space by dots! And exactly that's what Surat did. But why did he do that? Was it some kind of fancy that he did not like to drag the brushes over the canvas and loved spending sleepless nights in his studio? Of course, unlike the impressionists, he did not paint in the open. He spent days on end in the field and the park or other places but painted inside his studio. His curious process would have drawn undue attention of onlookers and rendered his mission impossible otherwise.

Well, the idea behind the method did not arise from whim. It evolved out of rigorous study and understanding of color theory and properties of light. Seurat said he saw science everywhere.

So, he preferred to avoid mixing the pigments before applying them on the canvas. Rather, he left the job of mixing the hues in the retina! By placing a dot of a pure color-tone immediately next to another dot of a different color-tone, he enabled two different light rays to mingle in the eyes of the viewer creating the sensation of the blended hue!

In the above example, we do find shades. Smooth transition from one color to the other creates the illusion as if the artist used such graded tones. But no! It is the usage of contrasting shades of pure pigment that mixes the visual sensation in the brain and makes us feel as if we are looking at a perfectly smooth spread of colors.

This radical approach paved the way of several modern movements and eventually architecture too. But in his time, the painting was ridiculed by the viewers and the critiques, because as usual, people stuck their nose among the contrasting dots and were confronted by the lights from extreme ends of the spectrum! It needed looking at the canvas from a distance.

It took time for mankind to learn the fact that not only memories, but paintings too turn beautiful from a distance.

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Ranjana Kashyap
Ranjana Kashyap
Jan 05, 2022

How wonderfully explained the pointillism. Each and every word is full of information. Beautiful ink.

Saikat Baksi
Saikat Baksi
Jan 05, 2022
Replying to

Many thanks!

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