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In the late 19th century in France, the artist Georges Seurat headed a new movement in art that built on the impressionist style of painting that was in vogue at the time. Known as neo impressionism, this movement is often considered a more modern, abstract form of impressionism. It challenged traditional methods of painting and sought to create a new, avant-garde style based on scientific principles and theories.
Impressionists worked on creating a realistic representation, or impression, of the world and focused on the fleeting effects of light. Post-impressionists were more focused on subjectivity. In contrast, neo impressionism painters sought to use their art to convey their own personal responses to the world around them. They did this with bright colours, bold and expressive brushstrokes, and new techniques.
Neo impressionism painters wanted to create art that was more unified and vibrant than the art the impressionists were producing at the time.
Neo impressionism art techniques
Neo impressionism art is characterised by the use of pointillism and divisionism. It also relied heavily on the use of complementary colours. Neo impressionists often incorporated the use of abstract shapes and forms into their paintings to give depth and focus too.
Pointillism (derived from the French word point, or dot) refers to the technique of applying small, distinct dots of colour that, when viewed as a whole and from a distance, blend together to create a unified affect. Neo impressionism painting employed this technique to create a more luminous and unified composition that focused on subtle shifts in colour and light.
Divisionism, also popular among neo impressionism painters, refers to the process of breaking down the painting into its component parts and then reassembling them into a unified whole. This technique was used to create a sense of unity while allowing the artist to experiment with light and colour.
The use of colour in neo impressionism
Colour theory was developed in the late 19th century and played a large role in neo impressionism painting. Complementary colours, or colours that are directly opposite each other on the colour wheel, are used by neo impressionism painters to help create a sense of harmony in their works.
Neo impressionism themes
Neo impressionism painting typically features a high level of detail and intricate patterns and focuses on scenes from everyday life. Landscapes often use vibrant colours and varied brushstrokes and points of light. Portraits often feature a combination of pointillism and more traditional impressionist brushstrokes to capture a subject’s facial features and expressions.
The popularity and legacy of neo impressionism
Neo impressionism art grew quickly in popularity following the exhibition in 1886 of Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte in Paris. Originally controversial and poorly received by the critics, this work is now regarded as a masterpiece. Camille Pissarro’s most popular works were of this subgenre and Paul Signac was also an important member of the neo impressionism movement.
Neo impressionists found their star waning in the early twentieth century, as it was seen as too artificial and academic. It has, however, been highly influential and is still considered to be an important part of art history.
Modern art movements, including abstract expressionism and pop art, owe a debt of gratitude to neo impressionism art. Its legacy continues to be seen in the works of many contemporary artists to this day.
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