Neo-Impressionism was a French movement in painting from the 1880s to the early 1900s that was inspired by color theory and the science of optical perception. Unlike the romantic, spontaneous Impressionists before them, the Neo-Impressionists followed a more calculated and scientific technique. The technique used by Neo-Impressionists was called divisionism or pointillism. It was a technique in which small spots of pure pigment were applied to the canvas. Instead of blending colors on a painter's palette, Neo-Impressionists relied on the science of optics to blend colors in the viewer's eye.
Neo-Impressionists wanted to develop a scientific method of creating luminous paintings of urban modern life. Impressionists had been intent on recording nature and light; Neo-Impressionists wanted to explore a new way of painting. Based on the color theories of Michel-Eugène Chevreul, a French Chemist who wrote On the Law of the Simultaneous Contrast of Colours in 1839, Georges Seurat experimented with pointillism as a way to preserve the intensity of pigments by avoiding the desaturation caused by blending paints.
Neo-Impressionists were interested in the modernizing of urban life. Many of the Neo-Impressionists were involved in the anarchist movement that opposed industrial capitalism and sought to cast off bourgeois conventions that impeded their individual freedom. They saw scientific endeavors in art to be in pursuit of autonomy, and their paintings often depict laboring peasants, the working class, and modern urban life.
Works of Neo-Impressionism are identifiable by their soft speckled appearance and bright colors. Common subject matters for these works include people at work and landscapes. Georges Seurat was the pioneer of Neo-Impressionism, and Paul Signac helped develop the style. Théo van Rysselberghe, Camille Pissarro, and Henri-Edmond Cross also produced works in the style. Neo-Impressionism was influential to Vincent van Gogh and the Post-Impressionists, as well as Fauvism, Cubism, and Expressionism.