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Summary Article: Seurat, Georges Pierre
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

French artist. One of the major post-Impressionists, he originated, with Paul Signac, the technique of pointillism (painting with small dabs rather than long brushstrokes). One of his best-known works is A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte 1886 (Art Institute of Chicago).

At the age of 16 Seurat went to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, showing a remarkable early proficiency in figure drawing. Artists whose work he studied closely were Delacroix, whose frescoes at St Sulpice made him realize the significance of colour; and Piero della Francesca, whose sense of formal and geometrical beauty he shared.

Although fascinated by the Impressionists' use of colour, he rejected what he considered to be their lack of form, and sought to create a perfectly ordered art based on scientific principles. His pointillism was based on scientific research on the perception of colour. One of the first major results of his new art was his Bathers at Asnières (1884; National Gallery, London), which combines the atmospheric effect of Impressionist painting with a new solidity of form and composition.

As a draughtsman Seurat was no less exceptional than as a painter and his drawings, executed with conté crayon on rough paper, convey a remarkable richness of light and shade.

As a student, Seurat, together with Signac, became interested in the colour theories of various scientists, especially the ‘simultaneous contrast’ and interplay of complementary colours expounded by Michel-Eugène Chevreul, with the purpose of giving a new range of vibration in the rendering of light and its effect on any surface. The method, known as pointillism (or Divisionism), of using three sets of complementaries (red and green, blue and orange, and violet and yellow) in small separate touches, was first systematically applied in Seurat's Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, the final product of many oil sketches and drawings.

Seurat practised pointillism in a number of other works, including such landscapes as the Bridge at Courbevoie (Courtauld Gallery, London), the broken colour being in a sense ‘ Neo-Impressionist’, in the term devised by his friend the critic Félix Fénéon, though the ordered geometric scheme of composition was carefully worked out. Urban and industrial landscapes and views of the Seine and the Normandy coast were followed by compositions suggested by a metropolitan gaiety, in which the simple opposition of verticals and horizontals characterizing his landscapes is replaced by a more lively geometry, interpreting movement as in Le Chahut (Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo) and Le Cirque 1891 (Louvre, Paris).

images

Seurat, Georges Bathers at Asnières

Seurat, Georges The Circus

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