Georges Seurat Biography
Georges-Pierre Seurat (French: [ʒɔʁʒ pjɛʁ sœʁa]; 2 December 1859 – 29 March 1891) was a French post-Impressionistpainter and draftsman. He is noted for his innovative use of drawing media and for devising the painting techniques known as chromoluminarism and pointillism. Seurat’s artistic personality was compounded of qualities which are usually supposed to be opposed and incompatible: on the one hand, his extreme and delicate sensibility; on the other, a passion for logical abstraction and an almost mathematical precision of mind. His large-scale work, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884–1886), altered the direction of modern art by initiating Neo-impressionism, and is one of the icons of late 19th-century painting.
Seurat was born on the 2 December 1859 in Paris, at 60 rue de Bondy (now rue René Boulanger). The Seurat family moved to 136 boulevard de Magenta (now 110 boulevard de Magenta) in 1862 or 1863. His father, Antoine Chrysostome Seurat, originally from Champagne, was a former legal official who had become wealthy from speculating in property, and his mother, Ernestine Faivre, was from Paris. Georges had a brother, Émile Augustin, and a sister, Marie-Berthe, both older. His father lived in Le Raincy and visited his wife and children once a week at boulevard de Magenta.
Georges Seurat first studied art at the École Municipale de Sculpture et Dessin, near his family’s home in the boulevard Magenta, which was run by the sculptor Justin Lequien. In 1878 he moved on to the École des Beaux-Arts where he was taught by Henri Lehmann, and followed a conventional academic training, drawing from casts of antique sculpture and copying drawings by old masters. Seurat’s studies resulted in a well-considered and fertile theory of contrasts: a theory to which all his work was thereafter subjected. His formal artistic education came to an end in November 1879, when he left the École des Beaux-Arts for a year of military service.
After a year at the Brest Military Academy, he returned to Paris where he shared a studio with his friend Aman-Jean, while also renting a small apartment at 16 rue de Chabrol. For the next two years, he worked at mastering the art of monochrome drawing. His first exhibited work, shown at the Salon, of 1883, was a Conté crayon drawing of Aman-Jean. He also studied the works of Eugène Delacroix carefully, making notes on his use of color.
He spent 1883 working on his first major painting—a large canvas titled Bathers at Asnières, a monumental work showing young men relaxing by the Seine in a working-class suburb of Paris. Although influenced in its use of color and light tone by Impressionism, the painting with its smooth, simplified textures and carefully outlined, rather sculptural figures, shows the continuing impact of his neoclassical training; the critic Paul Alexis described it as a “faux Puvis de Chavannes”. Seurat also departed from the Impressionist ideal by preparing for the work with a number of drawings and oil sketches before starting on the canvas in his studio.
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About Georges Seurat
eurat started his artistic career under the tutelage of sculptor Justin Lequiene and later continued his artistic progression in the École des Beaux-Arts with teacher Henri Lehmann. Seurat’s style in his early career was marked by his mastery of black and white drawings.
Seurat’s inclination to master the technique of black and white drawing stemmed from the artist always being in a hurry and drawing allowed him to depict a scene at a rapid pace.
In his early career Seurat also enjoyed using drawing to portray the essence of light, and black and white drawing seemed like the perfect medium for this. Even after Seurat cemented his artistic style of pointillism, he was still an artist that saw the benefit in planning things out in pencil drawings before bringing them to life with paint. Like other artists, Seurat utilized Conté crayon for his shades of black, whilst the white of the paper served as his luminous shades of white in order to contrast with the black.
Seurat’s mastery of black and white drawing meant that his pieces were often meticulous in their detail and such a technique is highlighted by his brush stroke. The artist was known to begin his sketched pieces short, firm parallel strokes or faint outlines. Such a technique controls the depiction of moonlight in the piece and gave more definition to his figures.
Seurat would also often scrape off parts of the finished piece in order to highlight certain areas of the finished drawing.
Georges Seurat’s later career was marked by his keen interest in the science of color. Charles Blanc’s 1867 work: Grammaire des arts au dessin was specifically targeted at artists and is said to have had a great impact on Seurat.
The theories on color were based around the basic principle that if two colored dots overlapped that third color would be formed. Such a process meant that there was never a need to blend colors together and that the artist’s dream of colors remaining as vibrant as when they were first squeezed from the paint tube could be actualized.
Color palette – Seurat’s use of color is directly linked to his theories on science and emotion. His studies of literature on the subject meant that the artist believed that he could use color to evoke emotion and create harmony in his art. Seurat sought to use color in increasingly experimental ways and thought of it as a new language, a vision of art based on his own heuristics.
Seurat named this language ‘chromoluminarism’. In A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte Seurat’s warm use of color supports his language and the only darkened portions of the piece are the shades of black which comprise the shadows. The rest of the image is portrayed in startling brightness.
A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte also shows off Seurat’s talent for pointillism on a grand scale. Rather than portraying two colors blended on a canvas, such a brush stroke technique entails dots of color being closely placed next to each, in order to allow the viewers eyes to optically blend the dots from a distance.