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Detail from Seurat's La Parade de Cirque (1889), showing the contrasting dots of paint used in pointillism.

Pointillism is a technique of painting in which small, distinct dots of pure color are applied in patterns to form an image. Georges Seurat developed the technique in 1886, branching from Impressionism. The term Pointillism was first coined by art critics in the late 1880s to ridicule the works of these artists and is now used without its earlier mocking connotation.[1]



The technique relies on the perceptive ability of the eye and mind of the viewer to mix the color spots into a fuller range of tones and is related closely to Divisionism, a more technical variant of the method. Divisionism is concerned with color theory, where pointillism is more focused on the specific style of brushwork used to apply the paint.[1] It is a technique with few serious practitioners and is notably seen in the works of Seurat, Signac and Cross.

Paul Signac, Femmes au Puits, 1892, showing a detail with constituent colours.

The practice of Pointillism is in sharp contrast to the more common methods of blending pigments on a palette or using the many commercially available premixed colors. Pointillism is analogous to the four-color CMYK printing process used by some color printers and large presses, Cyan (blue), Magenta (red), Yellow and Key (black). Televisions and computer monitors use a pointillist technique to represent images but with Red, Green, and Blue (RGB) colors.

Neuroplasticity is a key element of observing a pointillistic image. While two individuals will observe the same photons reflecting off a photorealistic image and hitting their retinas, someone whose mind has been primed with the theory of pointillism will see a very different image as the image is interpreted in the visual cortex.[2]Dennis, Dawson. "Pointilism Practice Page!." Epcomm. 2,7, 2000 . Enlightened Path Communications, Web. 9 Feb 2010


Oil painting palette.jpg

If red, blue and yellow light (the additive primaries) are mixed, the result is something close to white light.[3] The brighter effect of pointillist colours could rise from the fact that subtractive mixing is avoided and something closer to the effect of additive mixing is obtained even through pigments.

The painting technique used to perform pointillistic color mixing is at the expense of traditional brushwork which could be used to delineate texture.



The majority of pointillism is done in oil paints, but is not required. Anything may be used in its place, however it is used for its thickness and ability to not run or bleed.[4]


Pointillism also refers to a style of 20th-century music composition. It is stylized in the same texture, in that different musical notes are done in seclusion rather than in a linear sequence.[5] This type of music is referred to as punctualism or klangfarbenmelodie.

Notable artists

Vincent van Gogh, Self Portrait, 1887, using pointillist technique.

Notable Paintings

See also


  1. ^ a b "Pointillism ." Artcyclopedia. Artists by Movement. John Malyon/Artcyclopedia,, 2007. Web.
  2. ^ Schwartz, Jeffrey M.; Begley, Sharon (2003). The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force. Harper Perennial. pp. 337. ISBN 0060988479. 
  3. ^ Dennis, Dawson. "Pointilism Practice Page!." Epcomm. 2,7, 2000 . Enlightened Path Communications, Web. 9 Feb 2010
  4. ^ Nathan, Solon. "Pointillism Materials." Web. 9 Feb 2010.
  5. ^ Britannica - The Online Encyclopedia

External link


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