Georges Seurat

Georges Seurat

Georges Seurat is most recognized for being the creator of the Neo-Impressionist method known as Divisionism or Pointillism, characterized by a surface covered in delicately flashing dots or strokes of color. New quasi-scientific ideas about color and expression were the basis for his advances. Still, the elegant beauty of his creations may be attributed to the impact of extremely diverse sources. At first, he thought excellent modern art would depict modern life in ways akin to classical art but with technologically advanced methods. The impact of these factors on his work makes it some of the earliest contemporary art to employ such unexpected sources for expressiveness. Later, he became interested primarily in Gothic art and well-known posters.

He swiftly rose to the top of the Parisian avant-garde due to his achievements. His success was fleeting, however, since he passed away at the young age of 31 after just ten years of accomplished labor. His innovations, however, would significantly impact the artwork of artists as diverse as Vincent Van Gogh and the Italian Futurists. In contrast, his innovations resulted from images like Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte (1884), which has since become a widely recognized icon.

Childhood Georges Seurat

The youngest of three kids, Georges Seurat, was born in Paris on December 2, 1859. His mom, Ernestine Faivre, was from a rich background that had produced numerous sculptures; his dad, Chrysostome-Antoine Seurat, was a bailiff. By the time Seurat was born, his erratic father had already retired with little income. He spent most of his days at Le Raincy, around 12 kilometers from the cozy homestead in Paris. The young Seurat shared a home with his mother, brother Émile, sister Marie-Berthe,  and mother.

The family moved momentarily to Fontainebleau in 1870, where they remained throughout the Franco-Prussian War and the ensuing Paris Commune uprising. 

Early Training

Around 1875, when Seurat enrolled in the nearby municipal art school under the instruction of the sculptor Justin Lequien, he began his official education. He met Edmond Aman-Jean (1858–1955) there, and the two of them enrolled in the École des Beaux-Arts under the direction of Henri Lehmann, a student of Neo-Classical artist Jean-Auguste–Dominique Ingres.

Seurat spent the months between February 1878 and November 1879 at the Academy. Seurat devoted most of his time to working from plaster casts and live models since the program focused strongly on drawing and arrangement. Seurat routinely visited universities and galleries across Paris and studied art on his own during his leisure time.

He also drew guidance from the large-scale classical, allegorical themes that Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, a painter, specialized in. Copies of Holbein's paintings, a drawing of Nicolas Poussin's hand from his celebrated consciousness in the Louvre, and figures from works by Raphael are all included in Seurat's sketches, which date back to 1874.

Seurat went to the Fourth Impressionist Exhibition in April 1879. He had never seen these paintings before, and the artwork of Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro—artists freed from the constraints of academic convention—significantly impacted his subsequent experiments. But in Brest, wherever he began his military duty in November, he spent all his free time reading and doing sketches of other recruits, coastlines, and urban settings.

Seurat expanded his knowledge of color theory and how color affects human vision in the following years. He also read Ogden N. Rood's Modern Chromatics (1879), which suggested that painters should experiment with color contrast by putting little colored dots next to each other to see what happened. He also researched the brushwork of Romantic painter Eugène Delacroix.

Mature Period

Between 1881 and 1884, Seurat started to incorporate his theoretical study into his compositions, which led to the completion of his first significant painting, The Bathers at Asnières (1884). This enormous painting, based on countless little oil drawings and figure studies, showed a group of laborers unwinding by the Seine. The finished piece is a superb recreation of the peak summer's light and ambiance. Seurat later repainted it with specks of contrasting color in certain sections. It was originally painted mostly using the criss-cross painterly method called balayé.

After establishing the Société des Artistes Indépendants with several other painters, Seurat could display Bathers in June 1884. Paul Signac, a fellow artist who had been profoundly impressed by Seurat's methods, was there, and the two became friends.

In 1883, Seurat entered Bathers into the state-sponsored Salon, but the jury disqualified it. Seurat started working on Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte after finishing The Bathers, a two-year project that required a mural-sized painting. 

The artist made over thirty oil sketches and frequent visits to La Grande Jatte, an island in the Seine in the Paris district of Neuilly, to prepare for the finished piece.

Late Period

La Grande Jatte's exhibition in 1886 unexpectedly sparked interest in Seurat's art on a global scale. Soon after the exposition, Seurat was noted in an avant-garde review, and several of his works were displayed in Paris and New York City by famous art dealer Paul Durant-Ruel.

He started hanging out with a fairly exclusive circle of Paris-based Symbolist authors and painters about this time. His new affiliations alarmed Pissarro and Signac, who thought he was eschewing the objective study of color and light in favor of romanticized topics. Most of Seurat's final large-scale pieces, which largely represent Parisian nightlife, have a subdued color scheme that is very different from the vibrant tones of his early works.

Seurat visited Belgium in 1889 and displayed his works at the Salon des Vingt (XX) in Brussels. After his return from this trip, he met 20-year-old starlet Madeleine Knobloch and began living covertly with her. In February 1890, unbeknownst to his family members and friends, Knobloch gave birth to a boy. Seurat displayed Young Woman Powdering Themselves, the sole known portrait of Madeleine Knobloch, in his show at the Salon des Indépendants the same year.

The beginning of 1891 saw Madeleine Knobloch become pregnant again as Seurat was busy on The Circus. This artwork would not be completed. Seurat had a fever on March 26 and passed away three days later.


Seurat was motivated by a desire to move away from Impressionism's fixation on the ephemeral instant and instead capture what he saw as the central and constant aspects of life. His love of contemporary subjects and sequences of urban leisure, as well as his desire to refrain from only capturing the 'local,' or apparent, the color of objects in his paintings in favor of attempting to capture all the colors that crossed paths to generate their aesthetic, are all influences from Abstract expressionism.

Various scientific theories regarding shape, color, and emotion intrigued Seurat. He thought that lines that tended in a particular direction and colors with a specific warmth or coldness might have specific expressive effects. He also looked into the idea that colors that contrast or complement one another might visually combine to produce far more vibrant tones than can be produced by mixing paint. He dubbed the approach he created "chromo-luminism," although it is more commonly referred to as Divisionism or Pointillism (after the technique of dividing local color into distinct dots)

Seurat innovated a more vibrant and stylized style motivated by sources including caricatures and ubiquitous posters in his later work, leaving aside the serene, stately traditionalism of early pieces like Bathers at Asnières. These gave his art a potent new immediacy and, long later, led to the Surrealists hailing him as an oddball and renegade.

Seurat's original design inclinations were conservative and classical, despite the radicalism of his approaches. Although the subject matter—the various urban leisure activities of the corporatist and working classes—was wholly modern and customarily Impressionist, he saw himself as continuing the legacy of fantastic Salon painters. He believed in the figures in his significant paintings nearly as if participants were figures in colossal classical exemptions.

Legacy of Georges Seurat

Seurat, who was just 31 years old when he passed away, produced a significant body of work that included seven colossal paintings, hundreds of drawings, and over 40 smaller-scale works of art and sketches. Despite the limited size of his body of work, it made a significant influence. He was one of the first artists to employ color theory in an organized and dedicated way, and his technical advances impacted many of his contemporaries. Félix Fénéon, an art critic, first used the term Neo-Impressionism in 1886 to refer to Seurat, Signac, and Pissarro's new way of painting with their repudiation of the vitality of Modernism.

Seurat died at 31, yet he left a significant corpus of work. Neo-Impressionism, which emerged in the early 19th and 20th centuries and was situated between Impressionistic in the 19th and Fauvism and Cubism in the early, brought a brand-new consciousness of the surface characteristics of paintings and of featured, aiding in the emergence of abstraction.

Artists interested in the aesthetic aspects of color, form, and light frequently reference Seurat. He is acknowledged for inspiring the Op art that painter Bridget Riley created.

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