Biography of Georges Pierre Seurat (1859-1891)

French painter born on December 2, 1859 and died on March 29, 1891.

The work of Seurat is one of attempts to more innovative and consistent painting of its time. Seurat, in the few years that lasted their activity, developed a systematization of the principles of Impressionism, subjecting them to the rigor of science and theory. Born in Paris, his training began in 1875 at the municipal school of drawing, under the direction of Justin Lequien sculptor. The following year went to the École des Beaux-Arts, being admitted to the painting section in February 1878. At the Ecole, Seurat studied with a pupil of Ingres, Henri Lehmann, making numerous copies and studies of Ingres and the classical masters at the time that, as for most of the painters of his time, went to the Louvre to study the works of the great masters.

Seurat, although he was one of the great innovators of modern painting, was always concerned about the shape and the rigorous lesson in classicism. Unlike academic painters, did not understand the classical art and the masters of the past as a model to imitate and repeat, but as the basis for a renewal of the painting. Due to this concern by the classical basics of painting Seurat was a tireless reader that sought in the work of theorists and scientists base on which to base his work. Shortly after entering the École Seurat felt attracted by the reading of the Grammaire des Arts du dessin de Charles Blanc. But was, above all, the knowledge of the work of the physicist Michel-Eugene Chevreul, La loi du contrast simultané des couleurs and Modern Chromatics of Odgen N. Rood works that exerted a deep influence on his painting.

In may 1879, Seurat in the company of Aman-Jean and Ernest Laurent, with whom he had rented a Studio, visited the fourth Impressionist Exhibition. Works by Pissarro, Degas and Monet caused them so vivid impression that decided to leave the École des Beaux Arts. In this years, Seurat, besides by the Impressionists, became interested in the work of Millet and Corot, Courbet, Puvis de Chavannes, who would remain a close friend from 1883. A year later, his work Baignade was rejected in the lounge and Seurat decided to integrate in the Groupe des Artistes Indépéndants started his friendship with Paul Signac, artist who would develop new neo-Impressionist painting.

In 1885, Seurat was one of his most representative works: La Grande Jatte. The following year, Seurat, along with Degas, Signac, Lucien and Camille Pisarro, B. Morisot, M. Cassat. Guillaumin and others participated in the eighth and last exhibition of the Impressionists. Seurat appeared as the renovator of impressionism. These years were crucial in the path of Seurat knowing critics like Fénéon and Charles Henri who had published his Introduction to une Esthétique scientifique. Until his death, which took place on 29 March 1891 carried out intense activity left a series of works which, despite their small number, they had a singular relevance in the renewal of modern painting.

Seurat: the stonemason. France. (Oil on panel, 1884).

Seurat came from contributions of Impressionism and the recovery of the classical principles of form and composition. Seurat painting was a balance, developed from theory and reflection, between order and structure. Hence, that his paintings, deeply thoughtful and performed with a slow execution, were otherwise to the sensory improvisations of the Impressionists. Seurat you not interested the world of pure feelings nor instantaneous, but the permanent values of reality expressed through a coded system that would have its manifesto in the book, D' Eugène Delacroix au neo-impresionisme (1899), his partner Paul Signac wrote in his report. According to Signac, the neo-impressionists not dots, they divide in order to obtain all the possibilities of the luminosity of the color using the optical mixture of pure pigments, the separation of the various elements of the painting, its balance through the laws of contrast and the proportion of the touch in relation to the dimension of the box.

All this arose as an attempt of integration of art with science at a time in which the Impressionists had scattered and the academic bastion was a stronghold without force. For its part, the symbolists were an art based on literary assumptions rather than on the experimentation of the specific problems of the painting. In this context, Seurat and Signac raised a renewal embarked on a return to order from the laws and principles of painting.

Une baignade à Asnières (London. National Gallery) is one of the works of Seurat that set out clearly its method and plastic goals. Seurat began working in painting in 1883 made numerous sketches that determined, composed, and ordered in his study. In this painting, Seurat defined principles of order, harmony, immobility, balance and compositional rigour that broke with the prevailing trends at the time.

In the baignade Seurat recovered the mentioned classical principles for a new system of representation, which had its immediate projection in other works by the painter as Un dimanche l' Après midi to la grande Jatte (Chicago. Art Institute), which was created between 1884 and 1886. During the execution of this painting, one of the most complex of the painter, Seurat was equally numerous preliminary studies that then recomposed and selected in your study. In the composition definite Seurat reaffirmed his method based on the division of the color and its application in isolated points. Composition, for which used elements from different points, develops a perspective plurifocal initiator of the rupture with the vision monofocal perspective which will take place in the first decade of 20th century painting. Thus, Seurat, transmitting an accumulation of experiences in an unforgettable page life reduced to a timeless dimension.

La grande Jatte is one of the highlights of the method with the divisionist technique of Seurat, his art based on the study and research, thorough reflection on the structure of the composition. It can be said that in La grande Jatte Seurat inaugurates a new classicism under the sign of the renewal, the combination of science and plastic values of painting finds its continuation in the models (Barnes Foundation. Merion. Pennsylvania), which face the plenairismo conceived the picture in an interior. Stop the circus (New York. Metropolitan Museum), built between 1887 and 1888, at a critical time for the impressionism, Seurat would reaffirm its conviction in plastic values of the geometry, the order and the construction conjugated with decomposition and division in the surface color dots.

To Seurat, these values were defined in compositions based on a rigorous geometric scheme that turned into a static architecture components of the representation. Some landscapes, such as the spring of Honfleur and La Darsena de Honfleur (Otterlo. Rijkdmuseum Kröller-Müller), both in 1886, or the bridge of Cour-Bevoie (London. Courtauld Institute), painted in 1887, are clear examples of as painting follows the imperative rules of a method. A geometric compositional structure, a division of the surface of color by applying pure pigments and a static effect. Through this Seurat is shown, as well as Cézanne, a painter obsessed with the recovery of the order and the rigor of the form. But, in contrast to Cézanne, without making it aside from the lesson of Impressionism, but as a systematisation and codification of some of its principles.

The effect of static we did mention appears in the major works of Seurat. Only in some of his final works such as Le chahut (Otterlo. Rijkdmuseum Kröller-Müller), in that it depicts a scene from cabaret, or El Circo (Paris. Musée d'Orsay) Seurat was attracted by the movement and action. The influence of Seurat in the subsequent painting was very remarkable. Its projection came, more than by the forms of his painting, by the value given to the method and its preoccupation with base the exercise of painting on the theory.


Gallery multimedia


CHASTEL, a., MINERVINO, f.-the complete work of Seurat. Barcelona-Madrid, Noguer. 1972.

REWALD, j.-post-impressionism. Madrid. Alliance. 1982.