Early Neo-Impressionism

The history of Neo-Impressionism begins in Paris in May 1884 with the meeting of Georges Seurat and Paul Signac at the first exhibition of a group of independent artists (Indépendants) who opposed the official Salon and rejected the principle of an admission panel. There soon developed the Société des Artistes Indépendants, which became the public forum for the new Neo-Impressionist movement.


Despite profound differences in temperament and training, Seurat and Signac shared a taste for modernity and the ambition to innovate along with an intellectual rigour that led them to envisage a scientific approach to their art. Both were fascinated by the study of colour perception and the division of colours on the canvas in order to create new 'optical mixes' in the viewer's eye. Between 1884 and 1886 Seurat gradually adopted the method of optical mixing and began juxtaposing small strokes of pure colour on the canvas. He dazzled the art world in May 1886 at the eighth and last Impressionist exhibition with the unveiling of his monumental canvas, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte (Chicago, Art Institute), which elicited admiration and controversy in equal measure, and led the critic Félix Fénéon to dub his new manner of painting Neo-Impressionism. In 1887 Seurat sent seven paintings to the Cercle des XX (Circle of the 20), an exhibiting body established by progressive artists in Brussels, thereby inspiring a number of Belgian artists (Willy Finch, George Lemmen, Théo Van Rysselberghe) to begin painting in the Neo-Impressionist manner. 

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