Friday, December 5, 2014

Seurat: December 2, 1859 - March 21, 1891

Georges-Pierre Seurat (2 December 1859 – 29 March 1891) was a French Post-Impressionist painter and draftsman. His large work "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte "(1884–1886), his most famous painting, altered the direction of modern art by initiating Neo-impressionism, and is one of the icons of 19th century painting.

Seurat was looking for "something new, an art entirely my own." By studying the science and aesthetics of perception, light, and color, he attempted systematically to re-create nature's luminosity. In the technique he preferred to call "divisionism," Seurat juxtaposed touches of unmixed color for "optical" mixing by the viewer's retina. 

 Seated Bather, 1883

After a year of military service at Brest, Seurat exhibited his drawing Aman-Jean at the official Salon in 1883. Panels from his painting Bathing at Asnieres were refused by the Salon the next year, so Seurat and several other artists founded the Societe des Artistes Independants. 

 His famous canvas Sunday Afternoon on the Island of the Grande Jatte was the centerpiece of an exhibition in 1886. By then Seurat was spending his winters in Paris, drawing and producing one large painting each year, and his summers on France's northern coast

The Models, 1887-1888

Peasant Woman Seated in the Grass, 1882-1883

The Eiffel Tower, 1889

 In his short life Seurat produced seven monumental paintings, 60 smaller ones, drawings, and sketchbooks. He kept his private life very secret, and not until his sudden death in Paris on March 29, 1891, did his friends learn of his mistress, who was the model for his painting Young Woman Holding a Powder Puff.

This is a portrait of Madeline Knoblock, Seurat's mistress. Sge brings to mind the circus and carnival people and the music-hall artistes Seurat was seeing so much of at the time (he often went to the Gaite Rochechouart and the Eden Concert). Perhaps Seurat wanted to show us his lovermin her habitual surroundings- corseted like a traveling player, dressed in organdy, with heavy bracelets and a pink hair-ribbon of the kind we see attached to the round mirror on that little rickety- looking table.

Poplars. Conté crayon on Michallet paper

Seurat died in Paris in his parents home on March 21 1891. He was only 31. His last ambitious work, The Circus, was left unfinished at the time of his death.

"But Seurat was a complete artist at twenty-five when be painted the Grande Jatte. What is remarkable, beside the perfection of this enormously complex work, is the historical accomplishment. It resolved a crisis in painting and opened the way to new possibilities.
If one can isolate a single major influence on the art of the important younger painters in Paris in the later '80s, it is the work of Seurat; Van Gogh, Gauguin and Lautrec were all affected by it. - From Meyer Schapiro, "Modern Art"

 The Death of Seurat:

The Drawings:

Seurat and Neo-Impressionism:

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