Eugene Chevreul (1786 - 1889) The Chemistry to Art…
Birth of impressionism and the pointillism.
Eugene Chevreul is a French chemist famous for his basic research on the fats and his work on the colors.
Born in Angers, Eugene Chevreul works as chemist in the factory of Nicolas Vauquelin. He studies to them dyes, then the organic substances.
He publishes in 1823 his “research on the fats of animal origin”. In this work it exposes a theory of saponification, chemical reaction which transforms the fat contents into soap. Named chemistry teacher and director of dyeings of the Manufacture of the Goblins in 1824, it is interested particularly in the dyes, and discovers indigotin, the coloring principle giving blue.
In the Manufacture of the Goblins which is the royal Manufacture of the tapestries since 1664, it is interested in the dissatisfaction with the dyers who observe that certain dyeings do not give on wool the colors until they wait.
He notices first of all that some colorings are not chemically stable.
But especially he guesses that the most complex problems are not of chemical but optical nature. Chevreul then decides scientifically to deal with the problem on the bottom. The same scarlet red seems more luminous on a blue bottom than on a yellow bottom.
Leonardo da Vinci had already noted that the colors are influenced reciprocally when they are seen one beside the other and Goethe draws the attention to the effects which accompany these demonstrations. The same red, considering simultaneously on a yellow bottom and a purple bottom, seems to draw either towards the dark red or towards orange. In 1839, he writes a test on the law of the simultaneous contrast of the colors.
He shows there that in fact the pigments are in question, but let us tons them coloured which is in the vicinity. For example if one places a yellow close to a green it takes a nuance purple.
It shows that a color gives to a neighbouring color a complementary nuance in the tone. Placed coast beside the complementary colors light mutually, on the other hand not-complementary colors seem tarnished. Chevreul discovered the law of the simultaneous contrast of the colors.
The complementary colors are diametrically opposite on the chromatic circle.
Chevreul defines the local tone, i.e. the clean color of an object. This local tone, according to Chevreul, does not exist in oneself, but it is depend on the color of the surrounding objects. Thus any color invites its complementary to exist. The eye produces the missing color, the complementary one, to form a neutral balance in our brain. For example a blue projects an orange on the colors which are juxtaposed to him. According to this rule, to modify a color it is enough to change the bottom which surrounds it.
Moreover starting from two spots of different colors, the eye operates what one calls an optical mixture, i.e. two colors, or more, distinct are perceived simultaneously like a combination, a fusion a new color.
This principle can be immediately used by a painter. Instead of employing a green mixed on a pallet, a mechanical mixture, it is possible to apply on the web a little yellow juxtaposed to a little blue, so that the color mixes by simple perception one obtains an optical mixture then.
The principle of the mechanical mixture of the colors is known since strong a long time. It is summarized by this graph.
The laws of Chevreul supplement this principle by specifying that: “ When the eye perceives at the same time two neighbouring colors, they appear as dissimilar as possible, as well from the point of view of the optical composition as of their tonal value. ” And: “ In the harmony of contrasts, the complementary composition is higher than all the others. ”
The laws of Chevreul provide to the colourists the means of eliminating the undesirable effects from contrasts, by correcting the effect of yellow for example, imposed on the green when it is juxtaposed with blue, by the choice of an opposite nuance.
Chevreul publishes also a complete catalog of the old colors in the shape of chromatic circles which constitute a system of measurement of the colors.
We know that Eugene Delacroix (1798 - 1863) consulted the treaty of Chevreul. The painter sent mails to the chemist.
Which is the influence of the treaty of Chevreul on the simultaneous contrast of the colors on Delacroix ? Enormous if one considers the sea seen since the heights of Dieppe.(1852 - 1854).
The artist uses contrasts enter complementary colors so much so that the subject seems treated by an impressionist painter.
The impressionists precisely always used contrast between hot colors and cold colors but in certain fabrics of Claude Monet like Waterloo Bridge of 1870 contrast between indigo orange gilded and blue is edifying, all the painting is carried out in tons complementary between blue and orange. Monet knows perfectly the treaty of Chevreul on the color. Just like Pierre Auguste Renoir, in On the Terrace (1879), the harmony with 4 let us tons of 4 complementary colors is far from being a mere chance.
Sometimes Renoir uses the harmony between two complementary colors, the red of the dress of the young girl and the greenery of the landscape to the background in the Reading, but generally, as in Terrasses in Cagnes (1905) at least 4 complementary colors are employed and idem for Girls with the Piano (1892). Of the same Claude Monet in Field of Poppy close to Vétheuil uses contrast between complementary the green and red but blue and the orange appear too. Concerning contrasts between complementary colors the painting of Monet Field of Tulips in Holland can be regarded as a model. Multiple contrasts between complementary colors are visible and this in very close tonalities. Monet manages to combine harmony and contrasts to perfection. It is also the manner of Alfred Sisley, with the first glance it seems that only 2 complementary contrasts but an attentive examination reveals well the different one… Thus in Hoarfrost - Be of the Saint Martin (1874) Sisley deploys a whole series of contrasts between complementary in the tone. Other painters are inspired openly by the treaty of Eugene Chevreul on the law of the simultaneous contrast of the colors and assert it. They invent new running the pointillism or divisionnism.
Georges Seurat (1859 - 1891) notices that the real colors of nature cannot be reproduced on the painting. The mixture of the pigments on the pallet and the pure use of the white quickly makes age the colors. In order to avoid the stains of time and the inaccuracy of the colors, it replaces the mechanical mixture of the pallet by an optical mixture. The colors are consisted the juxtaposition of pure small keys of color. The eye of the spectator becomes the place of the mixture, it restores by the laws of optics and without external parasite, the natural perception of the elements. Each color is treated by the juxtaposition of its components.
It is only with a minimum of passing that picture becomes readable. Taken separately and seen meadows the details and the colors seem to have only little direction. The significance of the picture appears moreover further.
Georges Seurat invents a very tight divisionnism. Returned colors is without equal but this process led to a general flatness of the silhouettes.
It is even more obvious in the scenes of outside like a Bathe with Asnières (1884) or Sunday Afternoon on the Island of la Grande Jatte (1884 - 1886). This painting where about forty characters appear requires of Seurat 33 painted studies and 26 preparatory drawings… The quality of the coloured ranges is remarkable.
The large-sized paintings as the Parade of Circus (1887 - 89) require an enormous work on the part of the artist. It is enough to examine some details of enough meadows to become aware of it. Great dimension means at Seurat more than 2 meters out of 3 for Sunday Afternoon on the Island of la Grande Jatte and it is also the case Of Poseuses (1888). One imagines easily when one contemplates a detail the number of hours necessary to the juxtaposition of all these coloured points.
The Circus (1890 - 91) shows that the pointillist technique can return the movement perfectly. Georges Seurat also read the Grammar of arts of the drawing of Charles Blanc and the rules of David Sutter but the treaty of Chevreul inspires it more still. When there dies prematurely of a meningitis at 32 years he remains one systematically pointillist painter, Paul Signac.
The pointillist one of Paul Signac (1863 - 1935) is stated in his book published into 1899 Of Eugene Delacroix with the Neo-impressionism.
It is always a question of applying juxtaposed keys of pure pigments on the paintings, the colors, generally, are complementary : red/green, orange/blue, yellow/purple. Seen with distance, the optical mixture takes place and these multiple keys give a vibrating and incandescent effect to the picture. In many paintings the divisionnism of Signac is less tight than that of Seurat, the keys are broader, but the effect remains the same oneFor the choice of the colors Paul Signac is often closer to the Fauvism than of Impressionism. At the beginning the divisionnism of Signac consists as much of features than of points. Its first really pointillist painting is the Breakfast (1887). In the Portrait of Felix Fénéon (1890) it shows his direction of the color and the ornament. In Les Andelys (1886) the reflections of the trees in water are a delight. The colors of the Demolition contracter (1896) filled certainly with enthusiasm the painters Fauves, Matisse and Derain. Paul Signac is also in love with the sights of the ports, the Red Buoy (1895), especially Saint-Tropez whom it represents under his multiple aspects but also Collioure and Marseilles. Other artists tested themselves with the pointillism: Henri-Edmond Cross-country race (1856 - 1910), Théo Van Rysselberghe (1862 - 1926) but especially Camille Pissarro (1830 - 1903). Pissarro always more or less split up its key, and this in many fabrics. It uses multiple points and features.
Around 1885 it joined the divisionnism of Seurat and Signac. The characteristic of pointillist painting of Pissarro is which are filled up of a sharp natural light.
This manner makes wonder in returned landscapes. Unfortunately the artist does not manage to sell any fabric and returns to a more impressionist technique after having discovered the fabrics of William Turner in London. Paul Signac and Georges Seurat are the only painters who were divisionnists until the end of their artistic career.