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Neo-Impressionism and the Dream of Realities

Painting, Poetry, Music


$12 for adults; $10 for students as well as visitors 62 and over; free for members and visitors 18 and under.

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Get Creative: #NeoImpressed

Neo-Impressionist artists, like Symbolist poets and composers, sought to evoke certain moods, feelings, and experiences through their work. They utilized color, stylization, and compositional elements to create atmospheric, dreamlike worlds.

Create your own “dream of realities” using this self-portrait app modeled after the Neo-Impressionists’ techniques. Snap a self-portrait, pointillize it, then customize it by selecting the dot size, applying color effect, and adding your signature.

Share your photograph by e-mailing it and posting it on Facebook or Instagram with #NeoImpressed. Our favorite photographs will also be featured on the Phillips blog.

Painting, Poetry, Music: Neo-Impressionists and Symbolists

The Neo-Impressionists’ circle extended into other artistic spheres. The shared interests between Neo-Impressionist painters and Symbolist writers and composers as well as their personal friendships led to a variety of collaborations. Theo van Rysselberghe, for example, made illustrations for the books of Symbolist poet Emile Verhaeren, while Maximilien Luce and Paul Signac designed covers for the musical compositions of Symbolist composer Gabriel Fabre. Many of the writers published reviews about the works of their painter friends in journals and newspapers.

One of the major topics of discussion centered on the relationship among the various art forms. Poetry and music were considered especially effective forms of expression, as the spoken or sung word could touch the imagination of the listener more directly than a painting. Inspired by the expressiveness of music, some painters even thought of their paintings in terms of musical movements, as Paul Signac did by including opus numbers in the titles of many of his paintings. Van Rysselberghe’s portraits of Irma Sèthe and Anna Boch also spur the senses of the observer by evoking the sound of music.

The painters frequented popular theaters, the circus, and music halls, experiences that informed their work. Georges Seurat’s depictions of popular entertainment, such as Le Chahut or his café concert scenes invite the viewer to perceive the songs being performed and to envision the lively atmosphere of the music hall. Sketching during stage performances and concerts, and depicting popular dances and sideshows, the artists tried to engage a synergy of senses.

Exhibitions Support

This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

Support provided by Morgan Stanley and the Robert Lehman Foundation 

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Brought to you by the Exhibition Committee for Neo-Impressionism and the Dream of Realities: John and Gina Despres, Charlotte Cameron and the Dan Cameron Family Foundation, and Melissa J. Thompson

With support from the Musée d’Orsay

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Additional in-kind support provided by

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