Georges Seurat was a French painter and draftsman who pioneered the painting technique known as Pointillism. Born to a mother whose family produced many sculptors, Seurat spearheaded Parisian avant-garde in his time. His works did not appeal only to the artistic eye, but also to the scientific mind and human heart. To know more about Seurat, here are the following facts:
1. He attended the prestigious École des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
- Seurat mastered drawing and composition which allowed him to depict scenes at a rapid pace. His black and white drawings later influenced his meticulousness in painting.
- He left the school due to its strict academic methods and continued studying on his own by visiting libraries and museums.
2. Seurat was rejected by the Paris Salon upon his attempt to exhibit for a second year.
- Rather than participate in conventional exhibitions, he and a group of other artists formed the Société des Artistes Indépendants, an organization “with neither jury nor prizes”.
- The group’s aim was to develop techniques and theories for modern art. There, he met and befriended Paul Signac, a fellow painter who helped Seurat develop his Pointillist style.
3. His style, “chromo-luminarism” (or Pointillism), was a mixture of art and science.
- Instead of mixing paint on a canvas, Seurat painted tiny points of pure colors. He relied on optical mixing, wherein contrasting colors appeared to blend when viewed from a distance. This gave his works a glowing and luminous quality.
- He also used color theory, overlapping primary colors with each other to create secondary colors and painting with combinations to make his works eye-catching.
4. He gave rise to the Neo-Impressionist movement.
- Though he also depicted scenes of urban leisure and modern subjects, Impressionism focused on capturing fleeting moments. Instead, Seurat focused on what he believed was unchanging and essential in life.
- His Pointillism technique also allowed him to explore the play of all the colors involved to produce an object’s appearance, instead of merely apparent or “local” colors.
5. His painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” was seen as messy.
- The iconic piece was painted on a canvas 10 feet wide and displayed as the centerpiece of the last Impressionist exhibition. Many people viewed the work up close and failed to see it in its entirety.
- The painting became the most popular image of the 1880s and he was credited with advancing the Impressionist movement when it was beginning to decline.
6. Seurat died at the young age of 31.
- His exact cause of death was unknown, but he was said to have died from meningitis, pneumonia, diphtheria, or infectious angina. His son contracted the same illness and died two weeks later.
- His death left his painting “The Circus” unfinished. Perhaps as a premonition, he presented the uncompleted painting at an exhibition before his passing.
Despite his early death, Georges Seurat’s created one of the most famous paintings of the 19th century at 25 years-old. Poised between two centuries, he inspired other movements such as Cubism, Fauvism, and Surrealism. His stylized and dynamic technique has transformed the use of visual effects created by light, color, and form.
To learn more about other inspiring artists, check out their interesting facts here.