The Border between Art and Life: Reconsidering Neo-Impressionism within the History of Deconstructing Art

KATO Yukiko

Daily life interests, such as the desire for health and happiness, have been excluded from major avant-garde art since the 18th century. As Peter Bürger properly stated, if art is identified with daily life practices, the sanctity of art would be spoiled; however, if art completely avoids life’s interests, art can be suffocating. After World War II, some movements in deconstructing art — the 1960s counterculture, art therapy beginning in the mid-1940s and actually flourishing from the 1990s onwards, and De-Art in the 2000s led by Kumakura Takaaki — have tried to fuse art and life, although their attempts have not always been successful. In a sense, such a synthesis of art and life is one of the main themes of post-War art history.
As one pioneer in avant-gardes, Neo-Impressionists have tried to synthesize art and life. This article focuses on Neo-Impressionism in the late 19th century. Having detailed the fact that Neo-Impressionists practiced color therapy, homeopathy, and hydro therapy, the study clarifies that their hygienic practices were firmly related to their theory of painting. Thematizing the concept of “equilibrium” and the divergent character of color as a medium, I reveal how the Neo-Impressionists were exceptionally able to integrate art and life.

Keywords: The fusion of art and life, Neo-Impressionism, hygiene, equilibrium, color