Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Seurat, Georges

Landscape of the Ile de France
oil on canvas
32.5 x 40.5 cm
Musee des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux, France

"Some say they see poetry in my paintings; I see only science." (Seurat)

Georges-Pierre Seurat (1859 - 1891), Post-Impressionist painter, born into a very rich family in Paris, is one of the icons of 19th century painting. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and his teacher was a disciple of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Young Seurat was strongly influenced by Rembrandt and Francisco de Goya.

Seurat is the founder of the 19th-century French school of Neo-Impressionism whose technique for portraying the play of light using tiny brushstrokes of contrasting colors became known as Pointillism. He spent his life studying color theories and the effects of different linear structures. He is the ultimate example of the artist as scientist. Using Pointillism technique, he created huge compositions with tiny, detached strokes of pure color too small to be distinguished when looking
at the entire work but making his paintings shimmer with brilliance. In 1883, panels from his painting Bathing at Asnieres were refused by the Salon. After his painting was rejected by the Paris Salon, Seurat turned away from such establishments, instead allying himself with the independent artists of Paris. In 1884 he and other artists (including Maximilien Luce) formed the Societe des Artistes Independants. There he met and befriended fellow artist Paul Signac. Seurat shared his new ideas about pointillism with Signac, who subsequently painted in the same idiom.

Before actually painting the picture, he would sketch out parts of his artwork so that the models would not have to wait forever while he found the exact color. He took to heart the color theorists' notion of a scientific approach to painting. He believed that a painter could use color to create harmony and emotion in art in the same way that a musician uses counterpoint and variation to create harmony in music. He theorized that the scientific application of color was like any other natural law, and he was driven to prove this conjecture. He kept his private life very secret. On 29 March 1891, Seurat unexpectedly died. The cause of his death is uncertain. His last ambitious work, The Circus, was left unfinished at the time of his death.