2.2 Seurat and cerebral art. “3 Standard Stoppages” and artistic experimentation
The technological advancement at the beginning of the XIX century posed a great threat to traditional forms of art and philosophy, which were becoming outdated in the new economic, social, and political environment. Particularly, the invention of photography had reduced traditional painting as an obsolete culture of the past. Artists no longer held the monopoly over the creation of the visual testimony of their time. Until industrialisation, artists were invested with the social responsibility of recording and transmitting their contemporary culture to future generations. Photography was now the preferred medium for documentation, having resolved — or so…show more content…
The result, according to Duchamp, was a production of “retinal paintings”, exercises in aesthetic that mistakenly attributed intellectual value to skillful technique.
Despite his background as a cubist painter, Duchamp always identified Seurat, not Cezanne, as the “greatest scientific spirit of the nineteenth century”.
“The only man from the past whom I really respected was Seurat, who made his big paintings like a carpenter, like and artisan. He didn’t let his hand interfere with his mind.”
Common to both artists was the equal contempt for the “hand”, but also the intentional and conscious separation between the hand, the eye, and the mind. Divisionism, like Impressionism, aimed to mechanize the art making process by turning the artist into a receptive machine that could transfer the impressions of the outside world onto the canvas. Divisionism took this process one step further, by transferring the site of penetration of outside reality from the artist’s retina to the artist’s brain, which would render colors and shapes to the minimum instance of pure color dots. The experience of Impressionist paintings, was purely retinal: the spectator function was one of passive aesthetic contemplation. Divisionism painting on the other hand, were not so instantly consumed. They would form in the viewer’s mind through a process of synthesis on his retina and through reflexive movement of his mind. The participation was no longer passive and the viewer