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Neo-Impressionism


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A movement in French painting—both a development from Impressionism and a reaction against it—in which the Impressionist approach to depicting light and colour was made more rational and scientific. Georges Seurat was the founder of the movement and far and away its outstanding artist. His friend Paul Signac was its main theoretician, and Camille Pissarro was briefly a leading adherent. All three showed Neo-Impressionist pictures at the final Impressionist exhibition in 1886 (the term Neo-Impressionism was coined by the critic Félix Fénéon (1861–1944) in a review of this exhibition). The theoretical basis of Neo-Impressionism was divisionism, with its associated technique of pointillism—the use of dots of pure colour applied in such a way that when seen from an appropriate distance they achieve a maximum of luminosity. In each painting the dots were of a uniform size, chosen to harmonize with the scale of the work. In Seurat's paintings, this approach combined solidity and clarity of form with a vibrating intensity of light; in the hands of lesser artists, it often produced works that look rigid and contrived. As an organized movement Neo-Impressionism was short-lived, but it had a significant influence on several major artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, notably Gauguin, van Gogh, and Matisse, who worked with Signac and another Neo-Impressionist, Henri-Edmond Cross (1856–1910), at St Tropez in 1906.

Subjects: Art.


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