Georges Seurat

Georges Seurat was a French artist who pioneered the Pointillism and Divisionism style through his scientific approach to art. His study in the realm of color theories and the science of optics developed an understanding that a series of complementary or contrasting colored dots yielded a more vivid depiction of color and movement without sacrificing the purity of color. Born in Paris on December 2, 1859, he came from a wealthy family whose bailiff father was frequently absent, leaving him with his mother and two siblings. His interest in art began at an early age and was encouraged by his uncle, Paul Haumonté, an amateur artist. Seurat enrolled in a local art school in 1875 under the tutelage of sculptor Justin Lequien (1796-1881) and went on to enroll at the École des Beaux-Arts in 1878 for a year. He supplemented his education by visiting local museums and libraries, wherein, he became greatly influenced by the radical paintings of Claude Monet (1840–1926) and Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) and their way of conveying light and atmosphere. He studied different theories of color and optics and, in the end, created his Divisionism or Pointillism style by using juxtaposing dots of complementary and contradictory colors. He believed in color purity and found that placing the colors in certain positions or using different strokes, he could still create the rich tones without mixing paint. This scientific approach to color placement produced a more vibrant, brilliant hue. Seurat claimed, "Some say they see poetry in my paintings; I see only science." He ceased his formal studies in 1879 as he began his military service at Brest, though continued sketching in his free time.

Seurat attempted to exhibit his first large-scale canvas Bathers at Asnières in 1883 at the Salon, but it was rejected, so he helped to establish the Société des Artistes Indépendants, a more progressive society of exhibitioners. He submitted the Bathers to the Société the following year and began generating his two-year creation of the Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte (1884-6). This painting showcased his Pointillism and typical bourgeois subjects in their everyday acts of leisure. Seurat’s experimental brushwork and colorations created a vivid picture, however, his simplification of the faces of the individuals brought permanence to the canvas.

In the late 1880’s, he traveled the Normandy coast, creating nautical scenes in the summer and finishing them into large Pointillism canvases in the winter. He met and began living with 20-year-old, Madeleine Knobloch, who had his first son in 1890. He created nearly 500 works of art before his death at the age of 31 to what was most likely pneumonia in 1891. Despite his short life, Georges Seurat created the Pointillism movement and was a key pioneer in the Neo-Impressionist era.

"Great things are done by a series of small things brought together." - Georges Seurat