GEORGES SEURAT (1859-1891)

Biography

Georges Seurat (born on the 2nd of December 1859, Paris, France - died on the 29th of March 1891, Paris, France) was a French painter and illustrator known for belonging to the movement called Neo-Impressionism, and more specifically for being leading protagonist of Pointillism. He notably coined, with scientific rigour, the painterly technique of Divisionism, a method based on optical illusion and light properties, and which inspired many of his contemporaries including Paul Signac and Camille Pissarro, but also Vincent Van Gogh.

In 1876 Seurat starts his studies at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts - a period that will also be shaped by his numerous visits to the Louvre, drawings after Eugène Delacroix, as well as his participation to Puvis de Chavanne’s workshops. But probably the most defining moment is his reading of chemist Eugène Chevreul’s book titled De la loi du contraste simultané des couleurs (1839). This marks Seurat’s passage from Pointillism - which relies on the random juxtaposition of points - to a more rigorous and scientific method of dividing touches of paint by applying the principle of “juxtaposed contrasts”. With Divisionnism, paint is no longer mixed on the palette or on the canvas to avoid tarnishing vivid hues. Instead this pictural style involves the juxtaposition of distinct touches of pure colours, whose nuances and mixes are obtained through the optical illusion as the viewer’s eye synthesise the information generated by an accumulation of colourful dots.

In 1884 Seurat exhibited Une baignade à Asnières (1884) at the first Salon des Indépendants, and then, for the show’s second edition, presented Un dimanche après-midi à la Grande Jatte (1886), the first of his masterpiece known for illustrating the principles of Divisionism with rigour, in an almost scientific approach. Seurat’s artworks are also known for depicting the different social classes found in Paris at the time, showing the elite, the bourgeoisie and social workers, all seamlessly involved in leisure activities. Today, Seurat’s work takes part in major museum collections, including the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, the National Gallery and the Courtauld Institute in London, the Metropolitan Museum in New York and the Art Institute in Chicago.





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