When Georges Seurat developed Pointillism (dot painting) in the late 19th century, how could he imagine what this art technique would inspire in so many artists through the following decades?
Perhaps did he foresee this big piece by Christian Faur, of a girl smoking, made entirely of crayons?
Doubtful, but it’s super-fun for us to look at the evolution of Pointillism over the past 130 years.
What Exactly is Pointillism?
Seurat pushed away from Impressionism by inventing pointillism, in which he placed unmixed dots of color down on the canvas in close proximity to each other. When you look at the paintings, the color dots play off of each other in a way that creates movement and texture in the painting.
Your brain tricks your eyes into mixing the colors visually, so you see a sort of animated version of what the paint colors could look like if they were actually mixed.
This may sound exactly like Impressionism, but instead of using the quick, loose dabs of paint of the Impressionists, Pointillists (Neo Impressionists) were much more studied and precise about the placements of their marks. They were heavily influenced by the ideas of a French chemist named Michel Eugène Chevreul, who discovered that complementary colors, placed in close proximity, greatly enhance each other.
The fellas who started it all: Georges Seurat invented Pointillism, followed closely by Paul Signac. Signac outlived Seurat and took Pointillism into new directions, including using pen and ink, which is a common pointillist practice today known as stippling.
Easily Seurat’s most famous painting is A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, which you can see below, accompanied by a really cool close-up of some of its paint marks. If you get a chance to come to Chicago, go visit it at The Art Institute – it’s 10 feet wide and amazing to see in real life.
This is a fun list of facts about the painting.
Signac took Seurat’s Pointillism and ran with it, painting many images of the French Coast, and influenced Matisse and Van Gogh’s painting styles. I especially like this painting by him, with the wonky trees and fabulous colors.
Have you ever heard of this artist? I hadn’t until I started writing this post, and I’m so excited to discover him. It makes me wonder how many semi-obscure artists there are out there who had a huge influence on the more famous artists we tend to hear about over and over.
Henri-Edmond Cross began his painting career using pointillism, and later on evolved into using bigger brushstrokes placed further apart on the canvas. You can see 2 examples of his paints below, one from his early career and one from later.
Can you tell what a huge influence he was on Matisse by the second painting?
Chuck Close is maybe the most well-known of the contemporary artists who were obviously influenced by the Pointillist movement. Many of his giant portraits are created by meticulously painting inside of lots of tiny squares that make up a whole grid.
You can see his 1988 portrait of Cindy Sherman below in a bullseye-shape, along with a closeup of the brushwork.
Korean artist Jihyun Park made these stunning and subtle reverse-pointillism pieces by burning holes into paper with lit incense sticks.
The sepia look and cloudy-smoky subjects give them such a dreamy quality.
This dude invented the signature portrait style for The Wall Street Journal back in the late ’70’s, and continues to make beautiful illustrations that combine different techniques of line work including – you guessed it – dots. Lots of beautiful dots. Website
Ase Balko is an artist I follow on Instagram, and I always look forward to seeing her drawings. She doesn’t limit herself to pointillism, but wow, look at this dottily fantastic example.
Aridzi makes the most wonderful tiny stipple drawings that look like you’re stealing a glimpse of a secret moment. Oh, and he also drew the freaking amazing octopus that I couldn’t stand to leave out.
These pop art prints by Richard Brandao use varying sizes of dots in an unusual and cool modern way.
Boy, am I in love with these Angler Fish illustrations. Jared Muralt is a Swiss illustrator who started drawing angler fish one day to try his hand at pointillism, and ended up drawing all of the more than 100 species of them that culminated in a book.
Sadly, it looks like he hasn’t reprinted it, but take a look at this cool video about the making of the book. Angler Fish 4 ever.
Another Instagram find! How gorgeous are these drawings? HUH? I couldn’t decide which to choose, so you will definitely want to go follow him and see all of the other stunning pieces he’s made. Rostislaw on Instagram
Possibly my favorite of the group, these numbers hidden in colored dots really test your ability to distinguish the different colors. Oh – wait. They actually do test that. I had to include these Ishihara color-blindness test numbers here. They’re so cool.
Did you know you can actually buy your own color blindness test book?
Want to try your hand at pointillism or need an easy pointillism idea for kids? I have a couple of great ideas over here that you may love.