Georges Seurat was born on December 2, 1859, in Paris, France. He loved to draw as a young child while his mother, Ernestine Faivre, raise him and his siblings. They lived in Paris and his father, Antoine-Chrisostome, spent most of his time in a cottage in Le Raincy.
In 1875, when Seurat was only sixteen he began taking a course with a sculptor, Justin Lequien. Several years later, Seurat studied with Henri Lehmann at the Ecole Des Beaux-Arts. During the next two years, he came upon a book entitled Essai sur les signes inconditionnels de l’art (Essay on the Unmistakable Signs of Art) by Humbert de Superville. He discovered his relationship between lines and images. These finding would become the inspiration for Seurat s entire career.
Two years later in 1879, he left the Ecole des Beaux-Arts to perform his military service in Brest. While there, he found his love of drawing the sea and beaches. The following year, he returned home to Paris to study again with Lehmann. Seurat s style was unconventional and soon left the school to travel. In 1881, Seurat and Edmond-Francois Aman-Jean, a painter who shared Seurat s studio, left for the island of La Grande Jatte. While there, Seurat received his inspiration for many of his future works.
In 1883 at the Salon in Paris, Seurat displayed his first official exhibition. The following year he painted Une Baignade, Asnieres (Bathing at Asnieres). It too was also exhibited at the Salon des Independants in 1884. In 1886, the painting was one of the Works in Oil and Pastel by the Impressionists of Paris exhibited by Durand-Ruel at the National Academy of Design in New York. It was too original and received harsh criticism in Paris and New York. An American paper critic described Seurat s painting as the product of a vulgar, coarse and commonplace mind. His work shows factories and their smokestacks in the distance while bathers cool off from the summer heat.
The following year, Seurat began working on his immense painting entitled Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. To begin, he made oil sketches on the spot in a free and Impressionist style. The outcome is the opposite. One becomes absorbed in the geometric order and by the pointilliste method Seurat created. The painting shows smart town houses on the opposite bank and people strolling down the riverbank. A few are fishing while the young ladies observe the midafternoon summer sky. The public was reluctant to like the picture. Arsene Alexandre tells us Everything was so new in this immense painting the conception was bold and the technique one that nobody had never seen or heard before. This was the famous pointillism. The final painting was preceded by more than two hundred drawings and oil studies. From May 15 to June 15, 1886, the almost mural-sized work was displayed with great interest at an impressionist art show.
During 1887, Seurat completed Les Poseuses. La Parade was completed the following year. His paintings were exhibited at the exposition of the Twenty (XX) in Brussels and in the Salon des Independants in Paris between 1888 and 1889. During this time, he lived with his mistress, Madeleine Knobloch, and on February 16, 1890, their son Pierre-Georges Seurat was born.
Le Cirque was Seurat s final painting. It was begun in 1890 and never completed. He still showed it at the Salon des Independants. Before the exhibit ended, Seurat became ill with exhaustion and died on March 29, 1891, possibly due to meningitis. He was 31 years old.
Throughout Seurat s lifetime, he completed seven major paintings, forty smaller paintings or sketches, and approximately five hundred drawings. He introduced the Pointillism technique, in which small dots of color are grouped to create a vibrant work. His followers, the Neo Impressionists, adopted it.
Outrageous Art Ltd. George Seurat. www.outrageous-art.com/cgi-bin/catalogue.pl?name=seur&job=page.
WebMuseum. Seurat, Georges. Une Baignade, Asnieres. www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/seurat/baignade.
WebMuseum. Seurat, Georges. Un dimanche apr s-midi a l Ile de la Grande Jatte. www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/seurat/grande-jatte.
Seurat, Georges. Seurat, Georges. www.encarta.msn.com/index/conciseindex/60/print.asp?&pg=8ti=761576051&sc=0&pt=1.
Gilbert, Rita. Living with Art, Fifth Edition. 1998. Pages 104-105, 160.