The Evolution of Pointillism and Its Relation to Modern Color Printing

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The Evolution of Pointillism and Its Relation to Modern Color Printing

Pointillism is a technique that involves painting tiny yet distinct dots next to one another in order to form an image. In traditional painting, the artist mixes the correct colors on a palette, while pointillist painters would dab points of colors on the canvas so the viewer’s own eyes could mix it to see the intended colors and tones. 

Developed as part of the Post-Impressionist movement in the late 1880s, Pointillism was coined by art critics to ridicule this seemingly nonsensical technique. Their derision was short sighted. Not only did Pointillism become one of the most iconic art movements in history, it also intuitively tapped into the science of the eye and color. Mixing dots of colors is found all over technology today, from color printers to TV screens and monitors. 

The sower van gogh
monet wall art impressionism

Morning on the Seine near Giverny by Claude Monet


Impressionists like Monet and Pissaro and Van Gogh were known to use dabs of color to create their paintings, but Pointillists extended this idea further. The points are very deliberately marked with the science of color theory in mind. 

French artists Georges Seurat and Paul Signac were the primary creators of Pointillism, developed in response to the popular movement Impressionism. Pointillism contrasted heavily against other art techniques that were created during the Impressionist movement, as it required a much more scientific approach to be taken by artists. Impressionism was still largely based on the subjective opinions of individual artists at the time, which many artists who sought a new art technique did not agree with.

pointillism wall art


The most famous work of Pointillism, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, sparked the Neo-Impressionist movement, the first true avant garde modern art movement. An iconic painting of world art, it's charm and mystery still tickles and captivates viewers today.

Seurat and Signac attempted to recreate paintings that depicted light in its changing qualities through a new technique, in order to produce paintings with overwhelming brightness. Seurat began to place small dabs and points of pure color onto a canvas in certain patterns that would transform into beautiful images when viewed together. Since colors are not mixed for pointillism, the vibrancy of each pure color shines off the canvas, inspiring the vibrant Fauvist art movement and eventually the surrealist movement. 

Henri-Edmond Cross, whose work was instrumental in the development of Fauvism, was acclaimed as a master of Neo-Impressionism. He utilized Pointillism as his style of choice as he found his own unique style, opting to use blocky strokes as opposed to dots. The resulting surfaces resembled mosaics and may be seen as precursors to Fauvism and Cubism.

Henri-Edmond Cross in the evening air wall art
pines along the shore henri Edmund cross wall art

Pines Along the Shore by Henri Edmund Cross


This famous dot painting technique is similar to the four-color CMYK printing process that is used by color printers today, where cyan (C), magenta (M), yellow (Y), and black (K) are combined to produce different colors. This is the technology we use to create our museum quality giclée prints!