Georges Seurat, was known the master of pointillism. Born in Paris, France on December 2nd, 1859 and died at the young age of 31 on March 19, 1891. It is thought that he died from either diphtheria, meningitis or pneumonia, along with his young son several weeks later.
George was born to a middle class family. He had a good eduction and did not go without.
His father earned a good living and George had not to worry about money. George had 3 siblings, an older brother who was a playwright, a younger bother who passed away at the age of 5, and a younger sister who married an engineer, Leon Appert ,who was also a well known master glass-blower.
Georges was 10 years old when his uncle on his mothers side introduced him to painting. Soon after, he attended drawing classes at night with sculptor Justine Laquien. In 1878 George was admitted the the prestigious art academy Ecole des Beaux Arts. There he learned the traditional techniques of drawing and painting, studying artists like Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres. In November of 1879, he started a year of military service, and returned home November 1880. Throughout this time he continued to sketch.
Impressionism was the established style of painting by 1880 and there had been five Exhibitions featuring many impressionist artists. Impressionism was a great influence on Georges, he loved the the effects of using colour to express light, and he was working to develop his own style. Georges along with other young artists were working toward pushing the boundaries of the use of light and colour in painting even further than their older counterparts like Monet and Degas. This is when Georges started to express in his paintings the use of kinetic tones and lines. Applying small dots or short strokes of complimentary or contrasting colours to create a single visual colour. This was what he called Divisionism, what we know today as Pointillism. The definition of Pointillism is: A technique of neo-impressionism painting using tiny dots of various colours, which become blended by the viewer’s eye. Georges art was driven by nature and the harmony of the pleasures of life. Georges was aiming to produce a greater degree of luminosity and brilliance of colour. He saw himself as a pioneer of a new scientific style of painting, based on objective principals and defined rules.
Georges sudden death saw a wave of controversy in the art community as to whether Pointillism was invented by him. Today, we do look to him as the inventor. Soon after his death other established artist started to experiment with pointillism. Artist like Camille Pissarro, Henri Matisse and Paul Signac. Some of whom had been resistant to the development of Pointillism.
Of the paintings Seurat completed in his short life, many are very large -2 meters by 3 meters. Some of his well known paintings are A Sunday Afternoon in the Island of Grande Jatte (1884), and Bathers at Asmieres (1884). Seurat was meticulous. For every painting he made numerous studies of the landscapes, the individual people and animals in all of his paintings. Studies were done using conte and oil paint on board. Even his studies were large, many as big as 24” x 33”. These drawing in conte are works of art in themselves. The amount of time Georges spent on a single painting must have been incredible.
In 1883, Seurats’ work was shown in the first Salon show, this being his one and only official Salon exhibit. 1884 Seurats’ painting Bathes at Asnieres was exhibited at Societe des Artistes, after being turned down by the Salon. Then in December of that year he exhibited the studies for Afternoon on the Island of Grange Jatte with the Independants, due to the help of his new close friend Paul Signac. Completing the painting the following March, Georges exhibited it in 1886 along with nine other drawing and paintings in the final show of the Impressionist
exhibition, gaining him well deserved recognition. In 1887, Georges exhibited seven paintings along with Signac at the opening of the Les Vingt Salon in Brussels. At this time Signac insisted the artists using the Pointillism technique form themselves into the group we now know as Neo- Impressionists. In March of that year Seurat had another show with his studies of The Models and in the summer, a show of studies on The Circus Parade. 1888 Seurat and friends had an exhibition in the rooms at Revue Independante. He then spent the summer in Normandy working on a number of seascapes. In February of 1889 he took part in another exhibit at the Les Vingt Salon in Brussels. At this time he met the model Madeleine Knobloch, and in 1890 they have a son- Pierre Georges. In that same year he exhibited Young Woman Powdering Herself at the Independants, and then spent the summer painting seascapes in Gravelines on the North Sea. On the 7th of February 1891 the Salon of Les Vingt showd seven painting of Seurats’. On March 16th, Seuart is exhibited at the Salon des Independants. On March 29 of that years George Seurat passed away. He is buried two days later at the cemetery of Pere Lachaise in Paris. On May 3rd, Paul Signac and two other friends inventory Georges work, giving Madeleine Knobloch a number of paintings as her portion of the inheritance. The rest went to his family. At the time of his death, he also left behind a number of incomplete works.
Georges Seurat made an enormous contribution to the art we know today. We see Pointillism everywhere in art, from commercial work to fine art. I too have done pointillism. To have made such a strong commitment to art the way he did is very admirable. Another artist dying far to young saddens me.
Keep Well, Diana
Sources: Impressionism - The Birth of Light in Painting
Published By Taschen 2019
The New Painting - Impressionism 1874-1886
Published 1986, by Richard Burton SA