Félix Fénéon was one of the most extraordinary characters to emerge in the Parisian literary and artistic world of the 1880’s. After moving to Paris in 1881, he earned a living as a clerk at the War Ministry while at the same time writing a prodigious number of reviews for political, literary and art periodicals. In 1884 he co-founded the Revue Indépendante and his literary credentials enabled him to move in rarefied circles, attending the celebrated Tuesday gatherings hosted by the symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé and mixing with the foremost writers and thinkers of the period. It was at this time that he met Georges Seurat and Paul Signac (at a meeting of the literary symbolists at the Brasserie Gambrinus on the Left Bank ) becoming one of Signac’s closest friends.
In 1886 Fénéon wrote a review of that year’s Salon des Indépendants for the Belgian periodical L’Art Moderne in which he coined the term Neo-Impressionism to encompass the followers of Georges Seurat and to distinguish them from the Impressionism of Renoir and Monet. He continued to champion their cause and like so many of his Neo-Impressionist friends he shared their anarchist views. Indeed in 1892 he became editor of Le Père Peinard, a leading anarchist review. Two years later he was charged with others (in the Trial of Thirty) as a suspect in at least one bombing outrage. He was acquitted but (perhaps unremarkably) was forced to resign from his position at the War Ministry. Henceforward he made his living as an editor of an art magazine and then as an art dealer and director of modern art at Galerie Bernheim-Jeune. He organised a Seurat retrospective exhibition in 1900.