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• Biography •

SeuratGeorges-Pierre Seurat
(December 2, 1859–March 29, 1891) was the founder and the only great practitioner of the Neoimpressionism. His large work Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte has become one of the icons of the 19th-century painting. He was born in Paris, and studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1878 and 1879. While at the institute, the young Seurat was strongly influenced by works of Rembrandt and Francisco de Goya.

Seurat was an innovator in an age of innovators in the field of art. This French painter was a leader in a movement called neoimpressionism in the late 19th century. Unlike the broad brushstrokes of the impressionist, Seurat developed a technique called pointillism or divisionism. In this method, he used small dots or strokes of contrasting color to create the subtle changes contained within the painting. Seurat was an art scientist in that he spent much of his life, searching for how different colors and linear effects would change the look or texture of a canvas. He was painstaking in his work, the technique he chose taking much longer to produce a work of art. Even so in his life, he produced over 500 paintings or drawings.

A private man, Seurat after he was an established artist, would produce one large canvas a year for a total of seven monumental paintings. Along with this he produced 60 smaller paintings. He was very regimented, spending his winters in Paris and his summers on France's northern coast. In 1891, his life was cut short suddenly at the age of 31 in Paris, but even in this short time, his impact on the world of art will withstand the ages.

• Artwork •

Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (Click to enlarge)Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte
Seurat developed Poin- tillism, where, rejecting broad brushstrokes of mixed color, he instead applied tiny "points" of pure color to his canvas, relying upon the observer's eye to mix the colors. The result was extraordinary, but the method, painstaking. This scene, with over forty figures and their surroundings, took him almost two years to complete, during which he refused to lunch with close friends lest they distract him from his work. Today it remains his best-known masterpiece and a monument to dedication.

Young Woman Powdering Herself (Click to enlarge)Young Woman Powdering Herself
This is a portrait of Madeline Knoblock, Seurat's mistress. There is an atypical squalidness about this canvas, which could almost be seen in a gypsy wagon. Instead of the vase with flowers seen between the two panels of the folding mirror on the wall, Seurat had first painted his own portrait. When a friend who saw it told him it made him look silly, Seurat covered his face with the flower pot.

As for the plump model, she brings to mind the circus and carnival people and the music-hall artistes Seurat was seeing so much of at the time (he often went to the Gaite Rochechouart and the Eden Concert). Perhaps Seurat wanted to show us his lady friend in her habitual surroundings- corseted like a traveling player, dressed in organdy, with heavy bracelets and a pink hair-ribbon of the kind we see attached to the round mirror on that horrible little table.

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