Parisian artist Paul Signac met the impressionists Claude Monet and Georges Seurat in 1884. Their influence spurred his work in pointillism (or, where the juxtaposition of small dots of color in conjunction with the limited resolving power of the human eye lead to the impression of color coalescence).1–4 To stimulate a cross-disciplinary appreciation of science and art, we used the University of Wyoming Art Museum's Signac painting “Barques de Pêche à Marseilles” (see Fig. 1) to explore diffraction theory and the anatomical limitations to our vision during an optics exercise done in the museum.

1.
Christopher
Chiaverina
,
Cindee
Scott
, and
Patricia
Steele
, “
The Connections Project: Art, physics, and mathematics
,”
Phys. Teach.
35
,
292
294
(May
1997
).
2.
Thomas Rossing and Christopher Chiaverina, Light Science: Physics and the Visual Arts (Springer-Verlag, New York, 1999), p. 120.
3.
Signac actually considered himself a “divisionist” rather than a pointillist; he once remarked, “The Neo-Impressionist does not paint with dots, he divides.” Divisionism is roughly defined as the use of “separate, unmixed strokes of different pigments, whatever their size. Thus in principle, divisionism includes, but is not limited to, pointillism.” The difference between the two techniques is semantics from a scientific perspective, as the delineation is a function of stroke size and viewing distance. See Floyd Ratliff, Paul Signac and Color in Neo-Impressionism (Rockefeller University Press, New York 1992), p. 38.
4.
William I. Homer, Seurat and the Science of Painting (MIT Press, Cambridge 1964), p. 10.
5.
C.R. Kitchin, Astrophysical Techniques, 2nd ed. (Adam Hilger, Bristol, 1991), p. 6.
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