Room 2: Neo-Impressionism

Neo-Impressionism, also known as Pointillism and Divisionism, developed in the late 1880s as a reaction against the spontaneity of Impressionism. Led by Georges Seurat, the group applied the new ideas and colour theories of French and foreign scientists. Seurat developed a precise, systematic technique using pairs of opposites from the colour spectrum—red and green, blue and orange, yellow and violet—to create greater vibrancy. At a distance these complementary colours blend in the viewer’s eye, in a process known as ‘optical mixture’.

Paul Signac, Charles Angrand and Henri-Edmond Cross were the first to join the Neo-Impressionist group. The display of Seurat’s painting A Sunday afternoon on the island of La Grande Jatte 1886, in the final Impressionist show, prompted others to join the group, including older, established artists such as Pissarro and Maximilien Luce. Seurat’s involvement in Les XX (The Twenty) exhibitions in Belgium sparked interest in the new technique outside France. After Seurat’s premature death in 1891, Signac took leadership of the group, initiating the second wave of Neo-Impressionism. His technique became freer, as he used large dots and saturated colour, especially after his 1892 move to St-Tropez in the south of France.