All impressionists valued color, but the neo-impressionists were the only artists to develop working methods where theories about color and how our eyes register it, were combined with theories of paint application.
Seurat was inspired by the ideas of Charles Blanc who said “Color, which can be controlled by fixed laws, can be taught like music”.
Seurat and fellow painters made detailed studies of theories of scientific writers such as Eugene Chevreul. Chevreul said that the appearance of any color can be radically altered by changing the colors placed immediately beside it.
He also noted that colors appear to be at their most intense when placed directly next to their complementaries and called this theory the “law of simultaneous contrast”.
From these ideas, Pointillism developed. Dots or points of color were placed next to one another on canvas and mixed in the eye of the observer.
Seurat was interested in geometry and talked about “organizing” the color on his canvas. Emphasis on design accounts for the static, unmoving quality of many neo-impressionist paintings. Like the Impressionists, Seurat was interested in portraying subject matter such as city life and popular entertainment. However, he endowed them with qualities of mystery and mood.
Detail from Circus Sideshow (or Parade de Cirque) (1889)
A Sunday on La Grande Jatte -- 1884, 1884-86 (Art Institute of Chicago)
Seurat labored intensively on preparatory studies for up to a year before beginning a final painting.