0042 (Anti-)Biography and Neo-Impressionism

  • Michelle Foa (Author)
    Tulane University, New Orleans, USA

    Michelle Foa is an Assistant Professor of 19th-century European art in the Art Department of Tulane University. She received her doctorate in 2008 from Princeton University and is currently completing a book on Georges Seurat, exploring his work as an investigation into various aspects of visual experience and its pictorial representation. Recent and forthcoming publications include an essay on Seurat's seascape series in the catalogue for the exhibition Georges Seurat: Figure in Space, held at the Kunsthaus Zürich and the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, an essay on Emile Zola's novel L'Oeuvre in an edited volume on art and music in the 19th century, and an article on late 19th-century British photographic criticism in History of Photography, among others. Before coming to Tulane in 2008, she taught at Mount Holyoke College, the University of Pennsylvania, and Princeton University. 

Identifiers (Article)


This article analyzes neo-impressionism in relation to the biographical model of art criticism and art history that became increasingly prevalent in France over the course of the 19th century. Examining the critical response to the neo-impressionists, as well as some of their pictures and writings, I argue for the centrality of questions of authorship, individuality, and subjectivity to the group and its reception. I identify a distinctly anti-biographical tendency in the movement, one that disquieted the critics and led them to try and re-inscribe biographical meaning back into the work of Georges Seurat. Indeed, though Seurat instituted a divide between his work and his life in a variety of ways, he also insisted throughout his career on his paternity over the neo-impressionist method. In all of these ways, the relationship between the self and art was a significant and problematic issue for the neo-impressionists and the critics around them.


Georges Seurat, neo-impressionism, biography and art history, Victor Joze, L'Homme à femmes, pointillism, Madeleine Knoblock, Grande Jatte, Neoimpressionismus, Biographik