By Faye Hirsch, Art News
Félix Fénéon (1861–1944) is best known today as the effete dandy—top hat, gloves and cane in one hand, the other delicately tendering a cyclamen—in what Paul Signac called a “painted biography” of his dear friend. Considered one of the Museum of Modern Art’s fin de siècle masterpieces, the portrait bears an ornate title: Opus 217: Against the Enamel of a Background Rhythmic with Beats and Angles, Tones, and Tints, Portrait of M. Félix Fénéon in 1890. Everyone who was anyone on the Paris scene would have recognized M. Fénéon, with his long face, prominent nose, and wavy goatee, here in stiff profile against a pinwheel background of pulsating shapes and colors. Seurat called the style Pointillist, one type of the chromatically “scientific” painting Fénéon named Neo-Impressionist in 1886.