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    • Georges Seurat (1859-91) | Large Canvas Prints


        Painter

        Georges Seurat studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, when he read Chevreul's book on the theory of colour (first published in 1839, and republished in 1889). Later he studied the painting of Delacroix at St Sulpice in Paris, and Delacroix's theory as it is ascertainable from his Diaries, for precedents for the theories he was himself elaborating. He was also much influenced by the aesthetic theories based on the observations of a scientist, Charles Henry, and the conclusions of David Sutter's writings on the phenomena of vision, published in 1880. These led him to evolve first the theory of Divisionism (optical mixtures) and then a method of painting by the use of colour contrasts in which the areas of shadow are broken down into the complementaries of adjacent areas of light, the light itself being broken down into local colour, the colour of the light and of reflections, so that for instance bright yellow-green grass will contain reflections from the sky and from the other nearby objects, and shadows in it will tend towards reddish-purple; or the shadows in a reddish-orange dress will be preponderantly greenish-blue.

        He also evolved a formal type of composition, based on the Golden Section, on the proportion and relation of objects within the picture space to one another and to the size and shape of the picture, on the balance of verticals and horizontals, and on figures placed across the picture plane or at right angles to it. Where the Impressionists stressed the flickering quality of light and figures caught in movement, Seurat aimed at a static quality. His Bathers at Asnieres (La Baignade, London, NG), exhibited in 1884 at the Salon des Artistes Independants in Paris, was not so thorough-going an exposition of his theories as the Sunday on the Island of La Grande Jatte (Chicago), exhibited in 1886 at the last Impressionist exhibition,and the term Neo-Impressionism was established for Seurat and the group round him by 1886.

        He was for long opposed to any popularization of his theories, since he believed that by robbing them of novelty it would also rob them of effect, but in 1890 he consented to the publication of a resume of his theory. His early death, however, meant that his ideas were developed by Signac, Rysselberghe and others.

        There are works in Baltimore, Bristol, Brussels, Chicago, Detroit, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Grenoble, Indianapolis, Liverpool, London (NG, Tate, Courtauld Inst.), Merion Pa (Barnes Fdn), Munich, New York (M of MA), Northampton Mass. (Smith Coll.), Otterlo (Kroller-Muller), Paris (Mus. d'Orsay) and San Francisco.

      • Source: The Penguin Dictionary of Art and Artists (Penguin Reference Books)


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Updated: 2006