Born at Douai, May 20, 1856 and died at SaintClair St-Clair, near Le Lavandou in 1910. His mother was of English origin. Cross's real name was Delacroix. For obvious reasons he demurred at using so august a surname; hence the change. The work of Cross deserves more interest than is generally accorded it. He was drawn to studying the problems of light and, indeed, as a good disciple of Impressionism, tried to press them to conclusions whose limits he did not foresee at first, the farthest he had in mind being, it seems, Monet's 'extremism' in his Views of the Thames. His first idea was to carry Pointillism a stage farther. But at bottom he had the classical temperament and was all for constructive lay-out. He was loyal, in short, to the great Italian tradition, and often fell back on scenes taken from mythology. Also the exigencies of Pointillism hampered the natural suppleness of his line, the lyrical flow of his arabesques. He gives the impression of being inclined to set up, as against the quest of pure light, research-work into the secrets of equally pure colour. For he shared Seurat's ambition to give colour alone the function of delimiting surfaces; without, however, forcing on it the geometrical patterns so dear to his friend. Thus he seems to have anticipated some of the ideas of Fauvism; indeed Matisse himself has made no secret of his interest in Cross's work.
In 1884 he was one of the founders of the Société des Artiste Indépendants, along with Seurat, Signac and others, and in that year he began to abandon his more or less Impressionist and rather academic style in favour of Divisionism (see Neo-Impressionism). The reasons he later gave were that 'in the act of creating, will as well as instinct plays a large part; and will can only be based on exactitude. I am engrossed in this question of exactitude, seeking it in the laws of contrasting colours. Reasoning doesn't come easily to me -- in fact, it is perhaps the thing I lack most; and if a painter is endowed with artistic sensibility. studying a method is not likely to hinder him in expressing what he has felt.' In fact, as he freely admitted, 'because of my temperamental make-up, my sensations are in need of grammar, rhetoric and logic'. And this was just what he found in Seurat's method disciplined by the laws of optics: simultaneous contrast, the use of pure colours, and optical blending. However, he never became a slave to these theories, and if they enabled him to become the artist he was, they always remained a means rather than an end, and he even admitted that he would gladly abandon them if he were to find more fruitful ideas elsewhere. But the discipline of his friend's system suited his character well, helping him on what Signac called 'the road towards the logic of colour and synthesis of form'.
In Cross we find both a methodical, dispassionate thinker and a strangely troubled dreamer. His dream, quite contrary to that ofSeurat, was to follow the call of his imagination more freely. He wrote to a friend: 'Can the goal of art be nothing more than to set fragments of Nature in a rectangle, with what taste the artist has at his disposal? As the starting-point, I come back to the idea of chromatic harmonies invented outside Nature, so to speak.' Of all the NeoImpressionist group, Cross used the brightest scale of colouring, and his Pointillist technique was of almost abstract quality.
By his will to achieve a certain independence of Nature, linked with a pronounced decorative sense and a strong feeling for colour, Cross can be considered a precursor of Fauvism. In 1904 Matisse went to work with him and Signac in the South of France, fascinated by the richness of their palette, their animated way of painting, their free interpretation of what they saw. The characteristics of Fauvism -- bright colouring, contrasts perhaps startling but never gaudy, synthesis of forms, a preference for flat surfaces -are all partly based on the liberties Cross took with Nature, particularly striking in his big water-colours. Less preoccupied than Signac with bringing a method to perfection, Cross made his way, in an adventurous spirit all his own, along the path opened up by Seurat; and it is just this blending of spontaneous emotional expression controlled by logic which constitutes the distinctive beauty of his work. Cross's notebooks were published by F. Fénéon in Le Bulletin de la Vie Artistique, Vols. I-VII, May-Oct., 1922. Hitherto unpublished fragments of correspondence are quoted by J. Rewald in his monograph on Seurat, Paris, 1948.