Friday, March 2, 2012

Georges Seurat

While studying abroad in Italy this past semester I had the opportunity to go to Paris. Maybe it was because it was nice to see art other than crucifixes and Madonna and Child's, but during a visit to the Musée d'Orsay I saw a painting that I just fell in love with. It was The Circus by Georges Seurat.
Georges Seurat, The Circus, 1890-91

I had no idea until researching for this assignment that Seurat is also the artist responsible for one the most recognizable works of western culture, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, previously known to me as "The people with umbrellas in a park." 

Georges Seurat, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, 1884-86

Georges Seurat was born on December 2, 1859 in Paris, France. He studied mostly under a sculptor by the name of Justin Lequein and became interested in antique sculpture and Renaissance Painting. In his own work he was labelled a neoimpressionist. 

One of the reasons I was immediately attracted to the The Circus was because it utilized pointillism, which is a technique I have little experience with myself, but have always found interesting. Seurat played a large role in developing the pointillism style and he arguably invented it. Seurat differed from his contemporaries in that he had a strong interest in science as well as art, specifically the science of color theory. He wanted to break up each color into it's parts (a process known as divisionism) and let the eye blend the colors optically. The required each component color to be drawn as a single point, which led to pointillism.   

His interest in science led him to producing his paintings in a very scientific, methodical process which included completing several study drawings of each element of a painting before creating the final product. Below are some examples of his study drawings. The two colored pencil drawings, though completed years before either painting, could possibly be early study drawings that inspired the dominant character in each of the paintings mentioned above. 

Georges Seurat, Rehearsal (Woman Reading), 1880 and Ballerina with White Hat (Dancer), 1880

Georges Seurat, Sketchbook III, 1880

Georges Seurat, The Laborer, 1882

Georges Seurat, Antique Statue, Satyr with Goat, 1877


"Georges Pierre Seurat." Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2nd ed. Vol. 14. Detroit: Gale, 2004. 120-122. Web. 1 Mar. 2012.

"Georges Seurat: The Complete Works." Georges Seurat. 2012. Web. 29 Feb. 2012. <>.

Seurat, Georges, and Jodi Hauptman. Georges Seurat: The Drawings. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2007. Print. 

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