Mar 14, 2011

Seurat : The Dot Experimenter

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 Georges Seurat, the inventor of pointillism
Georges Seurat, the inventor of pointillism

By Tanveer Khadim


Georges Pierre Seurat, son of a legal officer, was born on December 2, 1859 in Paris into a middle-class Parisian family. Considered as post-impressionist conceptual artist, Seurat's innovative techniques with aesthetic and scientific advancement became the gateway to the future..  These unique techniques enthralled his fellow painters like Paul Signac.


During 1878-79 at Ecole des Beaux Arts, Seurat studied classical realistic drawings of Greek statues under Henri Lehmann and engrossed the colourist traditions of Impressionists. His early paintings of peasants, rural landscapes show signs of Barbizon school.


Seurat studied extensively not only painters, art philosophers but also chemists and theorists such as Delacroix, Blanc, Maxwell, Rood, Sutter and Chevreul. He was fascinated by their scientific theories, laws of optics, principles of light and chemistry of colours.


Seurat painted his first major painting (an urban theme) Bathers at Asnie'res (Une Baignade Asnie'ers) in 1883-84. He generated Impressionism in a more modern way by breaking contrasting colours into tiny dots in close juxtaposition and thought that these dots would merge in spectator's eye. Purely based his work on contemporary theories about optics and colour in a rigorous way, Seurat called it 'Divisionism'. But it was immediately refused by the Salon Exhibition jury during an exhibition. 

During 1884-86, he began work on famous large canvas Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. It shows crowd of bourgeois relaxing in a park. Before the final piece, the painting was proceeded by 2 year's numerous drawings and oil sketches. Once again under scientific methodical principles, he applied hundreds of small dots in colour patch, no blending with sweeping brush strokes for a shimmering effect.


This time Seurat's painterly style established him as the pioneer of Neo-Impressionism. While art critic Felix Feneon named this technique as 'Pointillism'.


 Seurat's painting 'Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of Grande Jatte'


From 1887 onwards, he painted on the basis of emotional impact of lines, angles, colour and provoked a practical as well as philosophical mode of thought about language of art. His famous works include Gray Weather, The Side Show, Le Chahut and Young woman powdering herself.

During short artistic career spanning 10 years, Seurat completed seven major paintings, 60 smaller paintings, 160 small wood panel and about 500 drawings.


He suddenly died at the age of 32 of diphtheria on March 29, 1891 in Paris. Seurat's incomplete La Cirque attracted scant attention when exhibited at Les Independents after his death.


Source: The Fusion Diary


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