Theodore Roussel Biography
Theodore Roussel was an entirely self-taught artist, who made a principal contribution to the 1887 exhibition of the New English Art Club, the first time he had shown there. A dissident group of Impressionists, rural naturalists and aesthetic painters, the NEAC sought to challenge the conservative grip of the Royal Academy and bring modern British art up to date.
Fellow artist Whistler met Roussel in 1885 and was impressed by the scientific and theoretical process he was developing with which to make his pictures. Roussel dubbed this "Positive Chromatic Analysis", which he described as "the means of discovering in any pigment of the palette the prismatic rays it reflects ... so that ... you can ... analyze in a moment any of these pigments and with the proper allowance for tonality extract from it one or more of its chromatic components". Such scientific accuracy demanded reliance on many subtly graded variations of pigment. Roussel was technologically inventive, and his friend the artist Mortimer Menpes recalled that to facilitate his Positive Chromatic Analysis he "had designed a series of mathematical instruments for matching the tones of nature ... and worked out a scheme for mixing perfectly pure pigments".