Divisionism in Art: Definition and Examples
Divisionism is a painting technique, where each color is compiled of tiny dots made of basic colors only. The idea lies in simple fact: instead of factory of pigments or mixture on the palette, our eyes will made a desired color, which, as a desired bonus, would be more vibrant and lively than in already mentioned cases.
This relatively demanding and time consuming method is often named Pointilism, but at Pointilism we are not limited at basic or complimentary colors - the essence lies in compiling a composition of tiny dots (which can be of one color only), so the image could be better seen from a distance, what gives it somehow ethereal feel.
Divisionism and Poitilism are both derived from basic ideas of Impressionism, so both terms are closely related and often interchangeably used as Neo-Impressionism. In reality it's hard to distinguish from all these terms, because the artists usually combined different styles and techniques and it's only fair to look at each painter's art in its own light.
Georges Seurat, for instance, is called the father of Divisionism and Pointilism, but also belongs to Neo-Classical school and was at the end of his short career closely approaching the Art Nouveau movement. Instead of futile searching for the ultimate definition, we should rather check the finest examples of Divisionism. Here is my selection:
Georges Seurat (1859-1891)
Sunday Afternoon on the Grande Jatte is not only Seurat's most famous painting and the key piece of whole movement, it's very likely the most famous painting of the end of 19th century as well. Seurat took dozens of drawings for the preparation and it took him full two years before completion.
The Dimensions of Seurat's Sunday Afternoon painting are impressive too. Its approximate measures are 7 by 10 feet. Apparently this was not enough, because few years after initial display the artist re-streched the canvass to get enough room for painting and additional frame made of blue, orange and red dots.
Next two paintings are titled Bather at Asnieres and Circus Sideshow.
Paul Signac (1863-1935)
Paul Signac was undoubtedly the most influenced by Seurat's theories of chromoluminarism (making of colors from basic or complementary colors). He loved to paint ports and harbours, and sailed the seas of Europe to paint landscapes he had seen. His fascination with water lasted to the end of his life.
Signac bought a house at Saint Tropez to be at water as much as possible. apart from watercolors and oil paintings, he experimented in other techniques too. He also wrote several theoretical works and contributed to anarchistic magazines. Some of his most famous paintings are:
Camille Pissarro (1830-1903)
Camille Pissarro belongs to the group of Impressionists and Neo-Impresionists. He is actually only artist who believed the later is only the logical step in the development of the first. While he was not particularly successful in his life time, we can't deny the influence of his work on many contemporaries, including Paul Cezanne, by whom he often painted landscapes, or Vincent Van Gogh to whom he explained some important ways of working with the light.
Pissarro's paintings are today on display in most famous galleries and museums in the world and achieve prices around ten million dollars when auctioned. Three Pissarro's sons and a daughter also became painters. Same is true for two grand-sons and one great grand-son.
Albert Dubois-Pillet (1846-1890)
Albert Dubois was an army officer by profession and his artistic skills (he was self taught) even got him into some trouble. He experimented a lot from the beginning and found his own style in Pointilism. Being one of first Pointilists, he was also one of the most dedicated ones in finding the scientific base under art expression.
Beside being one of the pillars of the movement, he also painted the first portrait in Neo-Impressionistic style. La Dame a la Robe Blanche (Lady in a Blanc Robe). The identity of the model is one of mysteries yet to be solved, if ever.
Charles Angrand (1854-1926)
Charles Angrand is one of the foundation members of Societe des Artistes Independants, just like Saurat and Signac. He also started his artistic career as Impressionist, but made a switch to Neo-Impressionism in mid-1880s. His style is distinguished from contemporaries in several characteristics.
First of all is use of strikes. He was never a true fan of tiny dots. Instead of them he used short thick strokes with a brush, what gives his work slightly different feel. He also used less intense colors and loved to create details from contrasts and shadows. Some colleagues compared his paintings with 'poems of lights'.
In later years he experimented with even larger brushstrokes, what resulted in somehow rougher contrasts which he compensated with usage of brighter colors. Here are three of Angrand's most famous paintings:
Maximilien Luce (1858-1941)
Maximillien Luce is another Impressionist who became Neo-Impressionist after meeting Seurat, but later (around 1900) he returned to Impressionism. Like many members of the group he also believed in anarchism and socialism. One of his characteristics was portraying the moments from real life situations, especially scenes from war (he served in army for four years), but if we try to stay focused on the Divisionism, we should mostly present his landscapes, where he showed his best of Pointilistic era.
By the way, the last painting above (Notre Dames de Paris from 1900), set the record among Maximilien Luce's paintings being sold for more than four million dollars in 2011.
Henri-Edmond Cross (1856-1910)
Born as Henri-Edmond-Joseph Delacroix to French father and British mother he changed his name to avoid confusion with well-known painter Eugene Delacroix. At first he signed his paintings as Henri Cross and later Henri-Edmond Cross (because at the same time an artist Henry Cros was also around). He started painting as Realist and slowly incorporated elements of Impressionism in which he persisted even after starting collaboration with Neo-Impressionists.
His first Neo-Impressionistic painting was portrait of Madame Hector France, his future wife.
His artistic style changed in next years even further. When he adopted usage of dots, he slowly started to leave more and more space between them, what led to effect similar to mosaics. Many artists were influenced by his later paintings and we can say Cross is kind of pioneer of Fauvism.
The story of Divisionism and Pointilism is not finished yet, but this post is. For now. Maybe I'll add few more artists later.