George Seurat (1859 – 1891) was a French pointillist painter during post-impressionism. He is best known for his paintings in the mode and style of pointillism. And has also been credited as an innovator of modern art and a forefather of Neo-impressionism!
More than just being known for his pointillist styling, Seurat has also been noted for his ability to evoke emotion from viewers of his paintings and the deeper layer of social commentary. If you’re not sure, pointillist styling is a method that uses uniformed dots to create the effect of color.
Although Seurat died young like many other artists throughout history, he succeeded in leaving behind enough of a body of work in his life to influence and inspire the generations that would follow and leave behind his distinct stamp on the more fantastic world of art as a whole.
Bathers at Asnières
Despite being Seurat’s first major painting project, The Bathers at Asnières highlights a high level of skillfulness and artistic thoughtfulness that wonderfully showcases the distinctive pointillist style that would continue to appear through his collection of work so you could check Georges Seurat drawings and learn about Georges Seurat life as a painter.
Like almost all of Seurat’s paintings, it shows real-life people living real, everyday lives in real-life places. It was said to be painted by Seurat, first practicing with many drawings and oil sketches before finally putting the image to paint and canvas.
Although regarded as a masterpiece now, it was first rejected by critics. They failed to recognize or understand Seurat’s new wave pointillist style and deemed the painting confusing, technically immature, and overly simplistic.
It would be the first of seven masterpieces the French artist would produce on a monumental scale, measuring over two meters high and three meters wide. It depicts a simple scene of young working-class men relaxing by the riverside on a pleasant Summer day.
On a deeper level, however, it is said to be a critique of the class divide between peoples, which was another theme throughout Seurat’s work. Congregated on one side of the river, the working-class people are shown as bright, prominent, and carefree; this has been argued as an example that Seurat’s heart was with the people rather than the establishment.
A Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte
Widely acknowledged as Seurat’s most popular and prolific piece, A Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte is truly a sight to behold. Just like the Bathers at Asnières, it also stands at over two meters tall and three meters wide and has been hailed as the leading example for the technique of pointillism.
Seurat used contrasting miniature dots and tiny brushstrokes to create an optical illusion of unified color, believing that this style would be more striking to the viewer than conventional methods. Seurat also thought that using dots of the same size throughout would provide a more vivid and emotional experience.
It is also said to be a direct follow-up to the Bathers at Asnières, where it depicts the upper-class members of society on the opposite side of the same river as if the river itself is a direct metaphor for the divide between classes.
Just as the Bathers at Asnières are depicted in a positive upbeat light, on the flip side, A Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte shows the people therein described as lazy, greedy, buttoned up and veiled in either shadow or hidden under umbrellas. This again has been sighted as evidence of Seurat’s distaste for the French bourgeoisie class.
The Circus – Georges Seurat
The painting titled “The Circus” was Seurat’s final painting before his untimely death and was his third major painting based on the theme of the circus. Although not fully finished, it is still regarded as one of his most delicate pieces.
It depicts a colorful circus scene of a female acrobat standing on a white horse as other circus performers play nearby while the dignified crowd looks on in delight. The circus was a popular pastime of the era and a popular theme for many artists.
Like many of George Seurat’s work, it is colored using the dotted method associated with pointillism. However, it is also painted in a Neo-Impressionist style, which gained famous ground at the time. It stands as a final showcase for the artistic ideologies of Seurat.
Also, like most of Seurat’s art, the emphasis of ‘color’ is used to depict the more profound emotion held within, for Seurat himself believed that it was the color itself that mainly made people feel the feelings.
He often used light and bright colors to highlight happiness or the ‘good’ side of the people in his paintings. On the other hand, he used darker, cooler colors to depict sadness or the ‘bad’ side of people and the larger society, which has been critically praised by many as a unique and fabulous way to embody artistic principles and ideals.
The Bottom Line
Although George Seurat’s work may not have been as instantly recognizable or extensive as some of the other most famous artists throughout history, its lasting impact cannot be called into question.
He pioneered and popularized the pointillism and divisionism methods and promoted his work’s more scientific and mathematical approach. Still, Seurat can even be credited for inspiring how our computer and television screens work today.
He is remembered as a fantastic painter who fabulously depicted modern urban life and its many underlying flaws. And one of the essential Post-Impressionist painters of all time!