Georges Seurat (1859-1891)

Georges Seurat founded the 19th-century French school of Neo-Impressionism, whose technique for portraying the play of light using tiny brushstrokes of contrasting colors became known as Pointillism. Seurat paintings were huge compositions with tiny, detached strokes of pure color to small to be distinguished when looking at the entire work. Yet, Seurat paintings, such as his most well known, Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, shimmer with brilliance.

Georges Seurat was born into a well-to-do Parisian family. After attending the cole des Beaux-Arts and Brest Military Academy, Seurat returned to Paris in 1880 to seriously pursue a painting career. Seurat s first painting was rejected by the Paris Salon, causing Seurat to turn away from such establishments, and aligning himself with the independent community of artists in Paris. Here, Seurat found camaraderie and shared his ideas about Pointillism. He began working on his masterpiece, Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, in 1884. This ten-foot wide Pointillism-style painting took two years to complete.

Seurat paintings used color and scientific theory to convey harmony and emotion. Seurat theorized that the scientific application of color was like any other natural law, and he was driven to prove this conjecture. He was convinved that this scientific knowledge of optics and colors would revolutionize the language of art, a language Seurat called Chromoluminarism. In essence, Suerat believed that balanced colors and horizontal lines conveyed calm, while dark colors and vertical lines gave off sad and angry emotions. His ideas on the relationship between art and science, as well as the introduction and mastering of Pointillism, secured Seurat a place in art history.

Georges Seurat died on Easter Sunday 1891 from meningitis. He was buried in his family s vault at Pre Lachaise cemetery. In addition to his seven monumental paintings, Seurat left 40 smaller paintings and sketches, about 500 drawings, and several sketchbooks.


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