22 Chapter 10 – Georges Seurat

Post-Impressionism

Kylee Semenoff

Chapter audio recording available here:



Georges Seurat, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of la Grande Jatte, oil on canvas, 1884

When creating something like a piece of art, an original concept or a creative piece, the artist can often be left behind or even shadowed by their work. Being recognized for your effort and the trouble that goes into creating something is amazing, but it is often that what an artist has created it what ends up being well known to the public. Sometimes a creation is so popular that the artist is a secondary thought, or they are compared to someone who has created something similar. This is where Georges Seurat can be an interesting topic. It could be argued that while his style of pointillism is well known, he is not necessarily the first image that comes to someone’s mind. Seurat is often compared to his contemporaries however, Andre Salmon says, “his name should be pronounced alone. Between him and his contemporaries, Signac and Cross, there is only a chronological relationship”.[1] Even though Seurat was one of the first Post-Impressionists, Van Gogh and Cezanne can take up slightly more of the spotlight or Seurat and his works are compared but Salmon is right in saying the there is only really a comparison in when they lived. Seurat is a master and creator of this style and should be recognized more for it. While Seurat is often compared to his contemporaries, it is important that we as reader and viewers take steps to acknowledge where he is different and unique through looking at his attitude towards art, use of science and colour theory as well as his contributions to the Neo-impressionists movement despite now engaging much with the art community.

Baigneurs a Asnieres.jpg
Georges Seurat, Bathers at Asnières, oil on canvas, 1884       

Looking back at the French Art community of the 19th century, it was dominated by a veil of judgement towards artists and their creations. One’s stance and opinions on an artist’s work could elevate or decrease an artist’s exposure. While critics were looking at many different aspects of a painting while making their reports and articles, creating a new style would attract a lot of attention in a gallery show and opportunities to look down on the artist. The irony though is this is arguably why some artists are more well known because they tried something different and received judgement. Seurat is a prime example how this works. With his new use of the pointillism techniques, he painted his first Neo-Impressionist painting Bathers which was rejected by the Salon due to the style but caught the eye of Paul Signac at the Salon des Independents were Seurat continued to display his work.[2] Seurat helped lead the Neo-impressionist movement which should already set him apparent from his contemporaries. However he was relatively lesser known compared to them. Seurat was proud in his position of the leader of the new movement but was protective of his role.[3] He was a recluse and often was secretive due to his beliefs that his technique was being corrupted by other artists.[4] This led to him being relatively unknown until long after his death. However, once his work was more known outside of France, his paintings started to become collectors’ pieces. One reason he became popular in death was probably due to his views of the artists around him and his reclusion, since this likely is how he was able to paint over two hundred and forty oil paintings a little over nine years. With this large collection, his work spread in the years after his death.

While his contemporaries, such as Van Gogh and Cezanne, have their own unique styles, Seurat use of a logical science and optical manipulation was a mastery of its own. With his techniques of pointillism, Seurat helped to pioneer a movement but kept his use of colour ground in logic. Seurat used the works and writings of Eugene Delacroix along with other theorists and aesthetics of the time. He read Ogden Rood’s book Modern Chromatics and adapted his colour wheel and system of color harmonies in his new style of painting, the first work with this being Bathers.[5] It was this new style that started his short journey with the Neo-Impressionist painters. John Gage described Seurat by saying “there can be little doubt that the painter himself nailed his flag firmly to the mast of technical innovation.”[6]

Georges Seurat, L’Écho (study for Bathers at Asnières), charcoal on paper, 1883-84

Seurat first started playing around with this style with drawings as he experimented with light and shadow.[7] This allowed him to perfect his techniques while using light and shadow while painting his future works. His drawings were also a way to learn more about him as at the time, friends and colleagues described his love for drawing, saying he would “craze about the art and turn to it when he was down”.[8] These drawing were key to developing his style. Seurat work with his style of is also what one could describe as very manipulating to the eye and this becomes what his paintings are well known for.

Georges Seurat, The Eiffel Tower, oil on canvas, 1889

The fact that the images are made from thousands of dots of paint that came together to form an image from a distance. Every time he went to a new canvas, he continued to improve his technique and improve his use of coloured dots. Gage describes “viewing distance, the relationship of contrasts to mixtures in the structure of the surface, and the perceived relationship of hues and values” as being the keys to Seurat pointillism technique and a way to consider his paintings.[9] Seurat’s style and how he put so much work into developing it was the start of many style and movements and deserves to be recognized.

Georges Seurat was a revolutionary artist whose style was new and whose technique left marks on the art community. Seurat was one of the leaders of the Neo-Impressionist movement and to look into the future, gave influence to Cubism with his used of colour and style.[10] With his relatively short amount of life, Seurat had managed to accomplish so much while at the same time kept many thing hidden. He was met with some walls put up by art critics and still manage to make himself known, even if some of that recognition came a while after his death. With two hundred and forty painting under his belt and his role as a Neo-Impressionist leader that he coveted dearly; Georges Seurat will forever remain a staple of the art community. As people learn about him, they should try to think about and understand his methods and life accomplishments.

 

 

Georges Seurat, Circus Sideshow (Parade de Cirque), oil on canvas, 1887-88

Bibliography

Broude, Norma. Seurat in Perspective. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1978.

Clement, Russell T., and Annick Houzé. Neo-impressionist Painters: A Sourcebook on Georges Seurat, Camille Pissarro, Paul Signac, Théo Van Rysselberghe, Henri Edmond Cross, Charles Angrand, Maximilien Luce, and Albert Dubois-Pillet. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1999.

Gage, John. “The Technique of Seurat: A Reappraisal.” The Art Bulletin 69, no. 3 (1987): 448-54. Accessed September 23, 2020. doi:10.2307/3051065.

Hauptman, Jodi. Georges Seurat: The Drawings. New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2008.

Ireson, Nancy. “The Pointillist and the Past: Three English Views of Seurat.” The Burlington Magazine 152, no. 1293 (2010): 799-803. Accessed September 23, 2020. http://www.jstor.org/stable/25769879

Thomas, David. Manet, Monet, Seurat. New York: Tudor Publishing company, 1970.

 

 


  1. Andre Salmon, "Georges Seurat," The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs Vol. 37, No. 210. (1920): 115, https://www.jstor.org/stable/861087
  2. Russell T. Clement and Annick Houzé, Neo-impressionist Painters: A Sourcebook on Georges Seurat, Camille Pissarro, Paul Signac, Théo Van Rysselberghe, Henri Edmond Cross, Charles Angrand, Maximilien Luce, and Albert Dubois-Pillet (Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1999), 63.
  3. Clement and Houzé, Neo-Impressionist Painters, 64.
  4. Clement and Houzé, Neo-Impressionist Painters, 64.
  5. Clement and Houzé, Neo-Impressionist Painters, 64.
  6. John Gage, "The Technique of Seurat: A Reappraisal," The Art Bulletin 69, no. 3 (1987): xx, accessed October 13, 2020, doi:10.2307/3051065.
  7. Norma Broude, Seurat in Perspective (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1978), 59.
  8. Jodi Hauptman, Georges Seurat: The Drawings (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2008), 10
  9. John Gage, "The Technique of Seurat: A Reappraisal," The Art Bulletin 69, no. 3 (1987): xx, accessed October 13, 2020, doi:10.2307/3051065.
  10. Andre Salmon, "Georges Seurat," The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs Vol. 37, No. 210. (1920): 115, https://www.jstor.org/stable/861087

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Chapter 10 - Georges Seurat by Kylee Semenoff is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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