Georges Pierre Seurat Biography
Georges Pierre Seurat (December 2, 1859 – March 29, 1891) was born in Paris, France. Painter, considered one of the most prominent painters of the 19th century, along with Paul Signac, Camille Pissarro, Edgar Degas, and Paul Gauguin, among others. Seurat was one of the founders of neo-impressionism, an artistic movement that took into account the optical treatises of the time and applied them in the technique known as pointillism or divisionism, a technique of which Seurat is one of the greatest exponents. Together with other neo-Impressionist painters, he formed the Société des Artistes Indépendants and the Salon des Indépendants, places that became the center of the movement in Paris.
His most recognized works were painted throughout the 1880s, among these stand out: The Artist’s Mother (1883), A bath in Asnières (1884), Sunday afternoon on the island of Grande Jatte (1886), Parada del Circus (1888) and the Eiffel Tower (1889).
Son of Chrysostome Antoine Seurat and Ernestine Faivre. From an early age, he was interested in art and painting, when he was young he entered Lehmann’s workshop, where he came into contact with theories about color and light, based on the work of the neoclassicist painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. In the mid-1870s, he attended the Municipal School of Drawing, an institution where he honed his skills. By that time, Seurat was already in contact with the Impressionist movement, a pictorial school that reproduced in his paintings the subjective impression that left a certain object or scene, most of the paintings in this school represented outdoor scenes and landscapes.
The most prominent exponents of this artistic movement are Claude Monet, Pierre Auguste-Renoir, Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt. In 1878, he entered the School of Fine Arts in Paris, where he remained until 1879. During this training period, he was interested in the studies on color and optics carried out by Eugène Chevreul, Charles Blanc and Oden Rood, which he took into account in his paintings.
Seurat and Pointillism
Since the late 1870s, he began to experiment with optical phenomena, such as the decomposition of light and the intensification of colors caused by the use of complementary colors simultaneously. To carry out the effect that Seurat sought, he reduced the length of the brushstrokes to the point where there were only small points of pure colors, which when observed by the human retina seemed to melt and intensify. This technique created by Seurat was known as pointillism or divisionism, a term that refers to the use of points to compose a drawing.
This technique was followed by the impressionist painter Paul Signac, whom Seurat met in the 1880s. Together with Signac and other painters, they created the Paris Independents’ Salon in 1884, where the works of unknown artists were exhibited or were not widely accepted by the French Academy. At that time, some of Seurat’s paintings had been rejected by the Paris Salon, for not having the quality to be part of an official exhibition.
In 1885, he joined the newly formed group by Camille Pissarro, who also began applying the pointillist technique. Since then, these three painters became the center of the artistic movement known as neo-impressionism, a movement in which painters such as Maximilien Luce and Henri-Edmond Cross also stood out.
Throughout the 1880s, Seurat made the most recognized works of his career in which he applied the bases of pointillism. The first works of this period were the portraits The Artist’s Mother (1883) and Portrait of Edmond-François Aman-Jean (1883), followed by A Bath in Asnières (1884), a painting that was exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants that same year, in this, Seurat represented the scene of several young people bathing in the Seine, a frequent theme in the paintings of the Impressionists.
Two years later he painted his most outstanding work Sunday afternoon on the island of Grande Jatte (1886), which was presented at the IX Impressionist Exhibition in which works by Edgar Degas, Jean-Louis Forain, Paul Gauguin, Signac and Pissarro, were also exhibited, among others. This painting presented a common scene of the season, people walking on the island of Grande Jatte. To finish this Seurat painting, he spent several hours observing and made numerous sketches, through which he sought to immortalize the scene and a large number of people who were walking at that time.
In 1888, he painted Circus sideshow (1888), in which he represented the circus show, emphasizing the mysterious and somewhat dark atmosphere of the place. A short time later, he presented The Eiffel Tower (1889), a work in which the structure is under construction. At the beginning of the 1890s, he presented his latest paintings, El Chahut (1890), The Channel of Gravelines, Petit Fort Philippe (1890) and El Circo (1891). After presenting these works, the young painter’s health deteriorated due to diphtheria, a disease that caused his death on March 29, 1891, in Paris.
After Seurat’s death, Signac continued to promote the foundations of neo-impressionism, which were summarized in his book De Eugène Delacroix to Neoimpressionism (1899). The work of the young French painter profoundly influenced artistic movements such as Fauvism and Cubism, although pointillism as a technique was used rigorously for a short time, its use extended for several years with certain modifications.