oil painting » Painting techniques » Cloisonnism


"Cloisonnism" is a style of post-Impressionist painting with bold forms separated by dark contours. Artists Emile Bernard, Paul Gauguin, and others started painting in this style in the late 19th century. The name evokes the technique of cloisonne, where wires (cloisons or "compartments") are soldered to the body of the piece are filled with powdered and then fired.

In Yellow Christ (1889), often cited as a quintessential cloisonnist work, Gauguin reduced the image to areas of single colours separated by heavy black outlines. In such works he paid little attention to classical perspective and boldly eliminated subtle gradations of colour two of the most characteristic principles of post-Renaissance painting.

Style of painting practised in the late 1880s by such French artists as LOUIS ANQUETIN, EMILE BERNARD, Paul Gauguin and PAUL SÉRUSIER. fundamentally it involves the use of strongly outlined planes of minimally modelled, bright colour with simplified drawing. These features challenge the three-dimensionality both of individual objects and of the pictorial space.

Cloisonnism represented the refutation of trompe painting in favour of an attempt to express the inner character of the subject-matter. Its stylistic basics were soon incorporated into the broader style of SYNTHETISM, which, in turn, formed a current within SYMBOLISM. The term is consequent from the cloisonne enamelling technique in which thin bands of metal are used to outline flat areas filled with coloured enamels.

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Stained glass, another pressure, uses the same principle, with lead creating the distinct outlines around pieces of coloured glass. The French critic Edouard Dujardin was the first to issue the word ‘Cloisonnism’ as descriptive of a new style in art in his essay on Anquetin in La Revue independante (1 March 1888, p. 490): ‘The painter traces his design with enclosing lines, within which he places his various tones juxtaposed in order to replicate the desired sensation of general colouration.

Drawing predicates colour and colour predicates drawing. And the work of the painter will be something like painting by compartments, analogous to cloisonne, and his technique consists in a sort of cloisonnisme.’