pointillism octopus drawing pen on paper

Pointillism Artists: A Surprising Evolution Through The Past Century

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When Georges Seurat developed Pointillism (dot painting/stippling) in the late 19th century, how could he imagine what this art technique would inspire in so many artists through the following decades?

Did he foresee this big piece by Christian Faur, of a girl smoking, made entirely of crayons?

Girl With Cigarette - crayon pointillism art by Christian Faur
source

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.

Pointillism Artists

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.

Georges Seurat

Georges Seurat - A Sunday on The Isle of Grande Jatte with closeup showing the pointillism paint brush marks.

This is a fun list of facts about the painting.

Paul Signac

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.

Pointillism art - Place Des Lices by Paul Signac

Henri-Edmond Cross

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?

Henri Edmond Cross paintings showing his evolution in pointillism

Chuck Close

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.

Chuck Close's portrait of Cindy Sherman 1988 and close up showing paint shapes influenced by pointillism

Jihyun Park

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.

Art by jihyun park - reverse pointillism by burning holes into paper

Kevin Sprouls

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

Illustrations by Kevin Sprouls - evolution of pointillism from Seurat to now

Ase Balko

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.

Ase Balko pointillism strawberry drawing

Aridzi

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 pointillism octopus that I couldn’t stand to leave out.

Aridz1 pointillism drawings
Aridz1 pointillism drawings

Richard Brandao

These pop art prints by Richard Brandao use varying sizes of dots in an unusual and cool modern way.

Richard Brandao dot art

Jared Muralt

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.

Jared Muralt illustrations - beautiful book about angler fish with all of the species illustrated in pointillism.

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.

Rostislaw Tsarenko

Another Instagram find! How gorgeous are these pointillism 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. See more beautiful pointillism work by Rotislaw here.

Rostislaw Tsarenko pointillism drawings - how artists are using pointillism today and influenced by Seurat.

Ishihara

Possibly my favorite pointillism artist 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?

Color blindness test circles

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