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Georges-Pierre Seurat

Georges-Pierre Seurat (December 2, 1859 – March 29,

1891) was a French painter and the founder of
His large work
Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, his most
famous painting, altered the direction of modern art by
initiating Neo-impressionism, and is one of the icons of
19th century painting.

Information provided by WIKIPEDIA

His Life

Seurat was born in a very rich family in Paris. His father, Antoine
Chrysostom Seurat, was a legal official and a native of
Champagne; his mother, Ernestine née Faivre, was Parisian.

Georges Seurat first studied art with Justin Lequiene, a sculptor.

Seurat attended the École des Beaux-Arts in 1878 and 1879.
After a year of service at Brest military academy, he returned to
Paris in 1880. He shared a small studio on the Left Bank with
two student friends before moving to a studio of his own. For
the next two years he devoted himself to mastering the art of
black and white drawing.
He spent 1883 on his first major painting — a huge canvas
titled Bathers at Asnières.

After his painting was rejected by the Paris Salon, Seurat

turned away from such establishments, instead allying
himself with the independent artists of Paris. In 1884 he and
other artists (including Maximilien Luce) formed the Société
des Artistes Indépendants.

There he met and befriended fellow artist Paul Signac. Seurat

shared his new ideas about pointillism with Signac, who
subsequently painted in the same idiom.
In the summer of 1884 Seurat began work on his masterpiece,
Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, which took
him two years to complete.

Later he moved from the Boulevard de Clichy to a quieter studio

nearby, where he lived secretly with a young model, Madeleine
Knobloch. In February 1890 she gave birth to his son. It was not
until two days before his death that he introduced his young
family to his parents. Shortly after his death, Madeleine gave birth
to his second son, whose name is unknown, and who died at birth
or soon after.

The cause of Seurat's death is uncertain, and has been attributed

to a form of meningitis, pneumonia, infectious angina, and/or

His last ambitious work, The Circus, was left unfinished at the
time of his death.
Scientific Influences
During the 19th century, scientist-writers such as Michel Eugène
Chevreul, Nicholas Ogden Rood and David Sutter wrote
treatises on color, optical effects and perception. They were
able to translate the scientific research of Helmholtz and
Newton into a written form that was understandable by non-

Chevreul was perhaps the most important influence on artists at

the time; his great contribution was producing the color wheel
of primary and intermediary hues.

Chevreul was a French chemist who restored old tapestries.

During his restorations of tapestries he noticed that the only
way to restore a section properly was to take into account the
influence of the colors around the missing wool; he could not
produce the right hue unless he recognized the surrounding
dyes. Chevreul discovered that two colors juxtaposed, slightly
overlapping or very close together, would have the effect of
another color when seen from a distance.
The discovery of this phenomenon became the basis for the
Pointillist technique of the Neoimpressionist painters.

Primary: Yellow, Blue, Red

Secondary: Orange, Green, Violet
Intermediary: Red-Orange, Yellow-Orange, etc.

Chevreul also realized that the 'halo' that one sees after looking
at a color is actually the opposing, or complementary, color. For
example: After looking at a red object, one may see a green
echo/halo of the original object. This complementary color (as an
example, green for red) is due to retinal persistence.

Neoimpressionist painters interested in the interplay of colors

made extensive use of complementary colors in their paintings.

In his works Chevreul advised artists that they should not just
paint the color of the object being depicted, but rather they
should add colors and make appropriate adjustments to achieve
a harmony. It seems that the harmony Chevreul wrote about is
what Seurat came to call 'emotion'.
Seurat Blends Science and
Seurat took to heart the color theorists' notion of a
scientific approach to painting.
Seurat believed that a painter could use color to create
harmony and emotion in art in the same way that a
musician uses variation in sound and tempo to create
harmony in music.
Seurat theorized that the scientific application of color
was like any other natural law, and he was driven to
prove this conjecture.
He thought that the knowledge of perception and
optical laws could be used to create a new language of
art based on its own set of heuristics and he set out to
show this language using lines, color intensity and
color schema.
Seurat called this language Chromoluminarism.
Seurat's theories can be summarized as follows:

The emotion of gaiety can be achieved by the

domination of luminous hues, by the predominance of
warm colors, and by the use of lines directed upward.

Calm is achieved through an equivalence/balance of the

use of the light and the dark, by the balance of warm
and cold colors, and by lines that are horizontal.

Sadness is achieved by using dark and cold colors and

by lines pointing downwards.
Bathers at Asnières
Some Student Interpretations
of Seurat’s Work and Theories
Image used in a Panasonic plasma television advertisement
Georges Seurat
Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte