Art and Science: 9 Seurat’s Neo-Impressionism

The Eclectic Light Company

Until the late nineteenth century, no school or movement in art had been founded on science. It’s true that developments in realist painting during the Renaissance took advantage of Brunelleschi’s perspective projection, but it was contributory rather than its basis. Then in 1884, the young French painter Georges Seurat (1859–1891) launched a completely new style and movement developed from scientific research by Hermann von Helmholtz, James Clerk Maxwell, and Thomas Young: Neo-Impressionism, Divisionism or Pointillism.

The nineteenth century had seen the rise of colour theory, and the first experiments on colour vision. Seurat was moved by the writing of scientists like Helmholtz who proposed that colour could be used in painting according to natural laws. He attempted to create a new language of painting derived from natural sciences, although not being a scientist by training he relied mainly on the writing of Ogden Rood, who in turn interpreted the science…

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