Georges Seurat

The mid-19th century was a time of radical innovation in art. The Impressionist artists shocked the establishment with their desire to paint light, form and colour as they saw it, and not as they had been taught. Their technique was brilliant but messy, and a subsequent generation of artists sought to bring clarity and order to the Impressionists’ pioneering experiments. One of these artists was Georges Seurat, who confronted the problem like a mathematical equation.

Born into a well-to-do family in Paris in 1859, Seurat trained at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where he was influenced by Delacroix and the Barbizon painters. He was introduced to Impressionism through his friend the painter Paul Signac and became captivated by the movement’s attention to light and colour.

Seurat used classical compositions to bring order to his pictures. Bathers at Asnières (1884) is on the scale of a traditional history painting, yet the scene depicts office workers and labourers. The effect was both archaic and modern. A committed socialist, Seurat painted Parisian everyday life in a way that had traditionally been reserved for kings. When it was submitted to the Paris Salon it was immediately rejected, which led to Seurat joining forces with other artists to form the Groupe des Artistes Indépendants, which enabled artists to present their work to the public without going through the official selective channels.

Of the many innovations Seurat introduced to painting, pointillism is perhaps the best-known technique. Using the scientific theory of colour vision, he juxtaposed little spots of paint next to each other like a mosaic. It was to revolutionise the way artists thought about colour and light.

When Seurat’s pointillist tour-de-force, Un dimanche d’été à l’Île de La Grande Jatte (1884–86), made its debut at the eighth and final Impressionist Exhibition in May 1886, it caused a sensation. A monumental work, the painting drew widespread attention in both the press and amongst the public, who were astonished by its large cast of characters, conjured through a myriad of colourful dots.

In response to his critics, who questioned the limits of pointillism in depicting the human figure, Seurat then produced Les Poseuses in 1888, an interior composition of three nudes. A version of this painting, Les Poseuses Ensemble (Petite version), sold for $149.2 million at Christie’s New York in 2022 as part of Visionary: The Paul G. Allen Collection — a world record price for the artist at auction.

Seurat died of suspected diphtheria at the age of 32. The critic Jules Christophe wrote, ‘A sudden stupid sickness carried him off in a few hours when he was about to triumph: I curse providence and death.’ Yet his art continued to have a significant influence on the subsequent developments in modern art.

GEORGES SEURAT (1859-1891)

Les Poseuses, Ensemble (Petite version)

乔治·秀拉 (1859-1891)

《格朗康海港》

Georges Seurat (1859-1891)

Paysage et personnages (La jupe rose)

GEORGES SEURAT (1859-1891)

La voile blanche

Georges Seurat (1859-1891)

Le Saint-Cyrien

GEORGES SEURAT (1859-1891)

Paysage, homme assis (Etude pour Un dimanche après-midi à l'Ile de la Grande Jatte )

GEORGES SEURAT (1859-1891)

Femme debout, en toilette de ville

Georges Seurat (1859-1891)

Paysage, homme assis ( étude pour Un Dimanche d'été à l'Ile de La Grande Jatte

Georges Seurat (1859-1891)

Paysage avec cheval

Georges Seurat (1859-1891)

Paysan travaillant

Georges Seurat (1859-1891)

Femme debout, la tête nue

Georges Seurat (1859-1891)

Le Chemin creux

Georges Seurat (1859-1891)

Faneur (Casseur de pierres)

Georges Seurat (1859-1891)

Régates (Deux bateaux à voiles)

乔治·秀拉 (1859-1891)

《碎石工人》

Georges Seurat (1859-1891)

La Maison au toit rouge

Georges Seurat (1859-1891)

Femme agenouillée

GEORGES SEURAT (1859-1891)

Ouvriers enfonçant des pieux

Georges Seurat (1859-1891)

Une Périssoire

GEORGES SEURAT (1859-1891)

L'homme à femmes

Georges Seurat (1859-1891)

Vaches dans un pré

Georges Seurat (1859-1891)

Le haut de forme

Georges Seurat (1859-1891)

Le mouillage à Grandcamp

Georges Seurat (1859-1891)

Femme s'éloignant

Georges Seurat (1859-1891)

Debout, en châle

Georges Seurat (1859-1891)

Le Peintre à la palette ( recto ); Buste d'homme ( verso )

GEORGES SEURAT (1859-1891)

Petit Fort Philippe

Georges Seurat (1859-1891)

Femme au parapluie

Georges Seurat (1859-1891)

La Source, d'après Ingres

Georges Seurat (1859-1891)

Soldats, les mains dans les poches, tête et mains (Carnet de Brest)

Georges Seurat (1859-1891)

Portrait d'homme, d'après Holbein

Georges Seurat (1859-1891)

La Source, d'après Ingres

Georges Seurat (1859-1891)

Homme assoupi, un autre debout lisant, deux femmes (planche issue du Carnet de Brest )

Georges Seurat (1859-1891)

Quatre personnages, un assis

Georges Seurat (1859-1891)

Un profil d'homme, deux poings, des doigts