Have you ever viewed a painting in which the subject matter disappeared as you approached? When all you could see up close were bright dabs of paint?



Classic pointillism describes paintings executed with small dots or strokes of primary colors placed close together. The spots blend visually to create a wide palette of colors and to create a cohesive image. Historically, pointillism was associated with figurative paintings, but some contemporary artists use the technique as well.

Georges Seurat, Sunday Afternoon on the Island of la Grande Jatte, 1886
Georges Seurat, Sunday Afternoon on the Island of la Grande Jatte, 1886

Viewers of my art often wonder if I’m executing pointillism because I apply lots of bits of colors with a knife in short, distinct strokes. Furthermore, I’ve been heavily influenced by Impressionism, which shares characteristics with Pointillism. I think that’s where the similarities end, however. True pointillism is planned, precise and detailed—just what I try to avoid!


Pointillism vs. Impressionism

The website StudyArtHistory.com, describes the relationship between pointillism and impressionism:

Pointillism is significant on the one hand because it grew out of Impressionism’s fascination with light and color, but was also a shift away from the Impressionists’ emphasis on spontaneity. Although Claude Monet’s study of color and light on the Rouen Cathedral series may appear to have pointillist attributes, with its multi-colored dots and dabs of paint, his focus is different from Seurat’s. Monet is trying to capture the instantaneous and ever-changing impression made by light and color. Seurat is using color theory to analyze color and form, and break it down into its building blocks of colored dots. While painters like Monet used direction in their brush strokes to convey form and movement, Seurat used only the disciplined dot.


How Pointillism Influences My Work

I do incorporate some element of pointillism as I use dabs of colors to visually blend and create other colors. I especially rely on this technique when depicting a piece of ground or a path, which can be rather dull as an element in a painting.

Kathleen Hall, The Elders, oill on canvas, 24 X 20 © The Artist
Kathleen Hall, The Elders, oil on canvas, 24 X 20 © The Artist

Complementary colors used together make beautiful grays and browns. So I might use spots of reds and greens or blues and oranges to visually create a grayish sidewalk or brown earth, rather than simply painting it gray or brown. In The Elders, for example, you can see I used oranges and blues together to create the feel of the desert ground.

Georges Seurat, Paul Signac and Henri-Edmond Cross are probably the most well known classic artists for pointillism.

Do you like Pointillism? Do you have a favorite pointillism artist or painting? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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