Georges Seurat was a Neo Impressionist painter who invented and mastered pointilism, a style of painting that uses dots of pure colour to build up shape and form. Colours are not mixed on the canvas, rather an illusion of colour of light is conveyed when the paintings are seen from a particular distance.

Seurat, and his fellow painter Paul Signac, were highly influenced by a number of colour theorists publishing in the mid-late 19th Century, as well as artists like Eugene Delacroix.

Seurat’s colour palette continued the Impressionists use of the spectral palette and additive mixing. He only ever added white to his paints and never mixed them on the canvas. His mark making ranged from dots to dashes and he change the type of brush stroke depending upon the affect he wished to make.

Pointillism is very similar to the way ink jet printers make up colour, through a build up of dots in a matrix pattern, where colour is created through an initial ink bank  of CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black), sometimes supplemented by additional hues or tones to broaden the colour gamut where necessary.

Seurat lived with Van Gough for a short while and influenced many of the art movements that came after him. His work can be seen at the National Gallery where if you’re lucky, and there aren’t too many people, if you stand at the right distance you can see his paintings shimmer.

I wrote about the Neo-Impressionists and their use of colour in an essay for Research Practice, an extract of which can be found here.