Georges Pierre Seurat, a French post-Impressionist painter, lived from 2 December 1859 to 29 March 1891. He created the painting styles known as pointillism and chromoluminarism and employed conté crayon for drawings on rough-surfaced paper.
Seurat's artistic personality united traits that are typically seen as opposing and incompatible: on the one hand, his extremely sensitive nature; on the other, a love of logical abstraction and an almost mathematical accuracy of thought.
One of the most well-known examples of late 19th-century art is his monumental piece A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884–1886), which introduced Neo-Impressionism and changed the course of contemporary art.
Education and family
At 60 rue de Bondy (now rue René Boulanger), in Paris, Seurat was born on 2 December 1859. In 1862 or 1863, the Seurat family relocated to 136 Boulevard de Magenta, which is currently 110 Boulevard de Magenta. His mother, Ernestine Faivre, was from Paris, while his father, Antoine Chrysostome Seurat, was originally from Champagne. He was a former legal officer who became wealthy through real estate speculation. Georges had an older sister named Marie-Berthe and an older brother named Émile Augustin. Every week, his father would travel to Boulevard de Magenta from his home in Le Raincy to see his wife and kids.
At the École Municipale de Sculpture et Dessin, run by the sculptor Justin Lequien and located close to his family's house on the boulevard Magenta, Georges Seurat initially studied art. Henri Lehmann was his teacher at the École des Beaux-Arts, where he continued his education in 1878. There, he received a traditional academic education that included copying the designs of previous artists and working from casts of antique sculpture. Seurat's research produced a thoughtful and fruitful philosophy of contrasts, to which all of his subsequent work was subjected. When he left the École des Beaux-Arts in November 1879 to serve a year in the military, his formal artistic education came to an end.
After spending a year at the Brest Military Academy, he returned to Paris and rented a small flat at 16 rue de Chabrol in addition to sharing a studio with his buddy Aman-Jean. He concentrated on developing the technique of monochromatic drawing over the following two years. His first piece of art was a Conté crayon drawing of Aman-Jean that was displayed at the Salon in 1883. Additionally, he closely examined the paintings of Eugène Delacroix and took notes on how he used color.
He spent the entire year of 1883 working on Bathers at Asnières, a gigantic painting that depicts young men unwinding by the Seine in a low-class neighborhood of Paris. The painting, which the critic Paul Alexis referred to as a "faux Puvis de Chavannes" because of its smooth, simplified textures and carefully outlined, rather sculptural figures, shows the continuing influence of his neoclassical training despite being influenced by impressionism in its use of color and light tone. Seurat also deviated from the ideal of the Impressionists by beginning the canvas in his studio after completing a number of preparatory drawings and oil sketches.
He exhibited Bathers at Asnières at the Groupe des Artistes Indépendants in May 1884 after it was turned down by the Paris Salon. Seurat and a few other artists he had met through the club, notably Charles Angrand, Henri-Edmond Cross, Albert Dubois-Pillet, and Paul Signac, soon became disenchanted with the Indépendants' shoddy management and founded a rival group, the Société des Artistes Indépendants. Signac, who later painted in the same language, was particularly heavily influenced by Seurat's novel pointillism theories.
Seurat started working on A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte in the summer of 1884.
Members of many social groups are depicted in the painting taking part in various park activities. Instead of the colors physically blending on the painting, the small juxtaposed dots of multicolored paint allow the viewer's sight to do so. This 10-foot-wide (3.0 m) painting took Seurat two years to create, much of which he spent sketching in the park in advance of the piece. A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884–1885), a smaller study that is currently housed in The Art Institute of Chicago's collection, is one of roughly 60 studies for the huge painting. The entire piece is also included in the Art Institute of Chicago's permanent collection.
The picture served as the basis for the musical Sunday in the Park with George by James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim and Ferris Bueller's Day Off by John Hughes.
In his painting Jeune femme se poudrant, Seurat depicts the artist's model Madeleine Knobloch (or Madeleine Knoblock, 1868-1903), whom he did not reveal to be his lover. She moved in with Seurat in 1889, taking up residence on the seventh floor of 128 bis Boulevard de Clichy, in his studio.
The couple relocated to a studio at 39 passage de l'Élysée-des-Beaux-Arts (now rue André Antoine) when Madeleine fell pregnant. On February 16, 1890, she gave birth to their son, Pierre-Georges, there.
In Gravelines, where he spent the summer of 1890, Seurat produced four canvases, including The Channel of Gravelines and Petit Fort Philippe, eight oil panels, and a few drawings.
At the age of 31, Seurat passed away in his parents' Paris home on March 29, 1891. His death's exact cause is unknown, however various theories include meningitis, pneumonia, infectious angina, and diphtheria. Two weeks later, his kid passed away from the same illness. The Circus, his most ambitious project, was still unfinished when he passed away.
A memorial ceremony was held in Saint-Vincent-de-Paul church on March 30, 1891. At the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, Seurat was laid to rest on March 31, 1891.
Madeleine was carrying a second child at the time of Seurat's passing, who passed away either during labor or soon after birth.
The 19th century saw the publication of treatises on color, optical phenomena, and perception by scientists who were also writers, such Michel Eugène Chevreul, Ogden Rood, and David Sutter. They transformed the scientific work of Isaac Newton and Hermann von Helmholtz into a format that laypeople could understand. New insights on perception were closely watched by artists.
The creation of a color wheel consisting of primary and intermediary colours was Chevreul's greatest accomplishment, making him possibly the most significant influence on artists at the time. French chemist Chevreul repaired tapestries. He realized that in order to restore a part correctly, he needed to consider how the colors around the missing wool affected the restoration; otherwise, he would not be able to create the proper hue. Chevreul noticed that when two colors were juxtaposed, barely overlapping, or extremely close to one another, they would appear to be another color from a distance. The Neo-Impressionist painters' pointillist method was developed as a result of this phenomenon's discovery.
In addition, Chevreul discovered that the "halo" that appears after staring at a color is actually the opposite color (also known as complementary color). As an illustration, one might observe a cyan echo or aura of the initial red object after glancing at it. Due to retinal persistence, this complementary color (for instance, cyan for red) exists. Complementary hues were frequently used in the paintings of Neo-Impressionist painters who were interested in the interaction of colors. Chevreul encouraged painters in his works to consider and paint more than just the color of the focal point by adding colors and making the necessary modifications to achieve color harmony. It appears that the harmony Chevreul described is what Seurat eventually came to refer to as "emotion."
Uncertainty surrounds Seurat's reading of Chevreul's 1859 book on color contrast, but he did copy out a few passages from the chapter on painting and was familiar with Charles Blanc's Grammaire des arts du dessin (1867), which makes reference to Chevreul's work. Artists and art enthusiasts were the target audience for Blanc's book. Given the emotional relevance of color to him, he explicitly advocated ideas that were close to those that the Neo-Impressionists eventually accepted. According to him, color should be closely related to what we see and feel in reality rather than dependent on a "judgment of taste." Blanc favored deliberate planning and an understanding of the function of each color in the composition as a whole rather than the use of colors in equal intensity.
While Ogden Rood based his articles on the work of Helmholtz, Chevreul based his views on Newton's ideas regarding the mixing of light. He examined the results of combining and arranging different kinds of pigments. Red, green, and blue-violet were regarded as the three fundamental hues. Like Chevreul, he asserted that when two colors are juxtaposed, they appear to be one unique color from a distance. Additionally, he made the point that, when seen by the sight and mind, the matching color generated by just mixing paint would be much less harsh and unappealing than the juxtaposition of primary hues next to each other. Since material pigments and optical pigments (light) do not combine in the same manner, Rood encouraged painters to be mindful of the distinction between additive and subtractive properties of color:
• Material pigments: Black = Red + Yellow + Blue (When blended, magenta, yellow, and cyan produce a real black; red, yellow, and blue typically do not.)
• Optical / Light: White = Red + Green + Blue
Sutter's Phenomena of Vision (1880), in which he claimed that "the laws of harmony can be learnt as one learns the laws of harmony and music," also had an impact on Seurat.
 Charles Henry, a mathematician, gave lectures on the emotional qualities and symbolic significance of lines and color at the Sorbonne around that time. The degree to which Seurat incorporated Henry's ideas is still up for debate.
The colors of his words
Seurat embraced the idea of a methodical approach to painting as forward by the color theorists. Similar to how musicians utilize counterpoint and variation to produce harmony in music, he thought that a painter might use color to create harmony and emotion in painting. He believed that the scientific use of color followed natural laws just like any other law, and he set out to demonstrate this belief. As a result, he set out to demonstrate this language using lines, color intensity, and color schema. He reasoned that knowledge of perception and optical laws might be used to develop a new language of art based on its own set of heuristics. This dialect was known as Chromoluminarism by Seurat.
In an 1890 letter to author Maurice Beaubourg, he stated the following: "Harmony is art. Harmony is the comparison of opposing and similar tone, color, and line aspects. brighter against darker in tonality. The complementary colors are red-green, orange-blue, and yellow-violet. those that make a straight angle in a line. The tones, colors, and lines of the image are considered according to their dominance and the impact of light, in gay, tranquil, or sad combinations. The frame is in a harmony that contrasts those of the picture's tones, colors, and lines ".
The theories of Seurat can be summed up as follows: The supremacy of dazzling hues, the predominance of warm colors, and the usage of upward-pointing lines can all evoke the sensation of joy. The use of equal amounts of light and dark, a balance of warm and cool colors, and horizontal lines all contribute to a feeling of calm. Dark, icy colors and downward-pointing lines can be used to convey sadness.
His impact in the world of art
In contrast to Paul Cézanne's work, which had a strong dialectical element during the highly expressionistic proto-Cubism period between 1908 and 1910, Seurat's work had flatter, more linear structures, which would catch the attention of the Cubists starting in 1911. Seurat was able to complete an aesthetic system with a new technical method that was well suited to its presentation in his brief period of creative output thanks to his observations of the effects of contrast and irradiation.
""Questions of form supplanted questions of color in the artists' attention with the introduction of monochromatic Cubism in 1910–1911, and for them Seurat was more relevant," argues art historian Robert Herbert. His paintings and drawings were frequently reproduced among the Cubists and were widely shown, making them visible to anybody in Paris. André Salmon referred to The Chahut [Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo] as "one of the major images of the new dedication," while Guillaume Apollinaire claimed that The Cirque (Circus), Musée d'Orsay, Paris, "nearly belongs to Synthetic Cubism.""
The idea that painting could be mathematically articulated in terms of shape and color was well-established among French artists. This mathematical expression produced an autonomous and compelling "objective truth," possibly more so than the objective truth of the thing represented.
In fact, the Neo-Impressionists were successful in creating an impartial scientific foundation for the study of color (Seurat addresses both problems in Circus and Dancers). The Cubists would soon follow suit in the areas of form and dynamism, while Orphism would follow suit in the area of color.
Google celebrated Seurat's 162nd birthday with a Google Doodle on December 2, 2021.