Kicking It Old School: The Classic Paintings of Georges Seurat

A Sunday Afternoon On The Island Of La Grande Jatte

Georges-Pierre Seurat needs no introduction to even the casual art admirer, as he is one of the more pre-eminent late 19th century artists, and is largely responsible for ushering in the post-impressionist movement in art. Many of his works are instantly recognizable, and his classic painting, A Sunday Afternoon On The Island of La Grande Jatte (above), altered the course of modern art by initiating the neo-impressionist era. It remains an icon of 19th century art.

Born in Paris, France on December 2, 1859 to a wealthy family, Seurat studied art, following conventional academic training. After a brief stint in the Army, in 1881 he moved to the island of La Grande Jatte with his friend and fellow artist Edmond-Francois Aman-Jean. The island would serve as his life-long inspiration and the setting of his most seminal work.

Eiffel Tower 1889Meanwhile, in 1886, A Sunday Afternoon On The Island of La Grande Jatte was rejected by the Paris art elite, a rejection that stung him deeply, and propelled him into turning his back on conventional art scene. He then joined ranks with the Groupe des Artistes Independants, a collective of French artists who had been similarly shunned or rejected by the established elite.

It was during this time that Seurat had begun to become interested in color theory and balance. It is also when he developed and perfected the technique of pointillism, in which small, distinct dots of pure color are applied in patterns to form an image.

Seurat’s main influences in coming up with this technique were scientists, especially Michel Eugene Chevreul, a French chemist and tapestry restorer who produced the first color wheel of primary and intermediary hues. Chevreul advised artists to think and paint not just the color of the central object, but to add colors and make appropriate adjustments to achieve a harmony among colors.

In his work with tapestry, Chevreul discovered that two colors juxtaposed, slightly overlapping or very close together, would have the effect of another color when seen from a distance. The discovery of this phenomenon became the basis for the pointillist technique of the Neoimpressionist painters, one that Seurat utilized to great effect.

Georges Seurat died in Paris on March 29, 1891 at the age of 31. The work he left behind has become some of the more important examples of classic late 19th century art.


About Stephen Kelly Creative

Hi, I'm Stephen Kelly, a writer, editor, photographer and graphic designer living in beautiful San Francisco, CA, USA. Amongst the things I love are writing, photography, movies, music, fitness, travel, Batman, all things Australian, food and fun, all of which I hope to reflect in this here blog. Welcome aboard ... now let's get busy!
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14 Responses to Kicking It Old School: The Classic Paintings of Georges Seurat

  1. Pat says:

    At first I thought this was divergent for you – but Seurat was someone you would have been attracted to if you had lived in the late 1800’s. What do you think?

    • Hi Pat. I hadn’t really thought about that, but now that you mention it, I think I would. I like the fact that he rebelled against the Parisian art elite and aligned himself with artists who were out to shake things up. I admire his scientific approach to art, and how he bridged that gap between clinical and artistic. I didn’t know much about his technique before I researching this post, and now the complexity of his work, and the means by which he acheived it, astound me in the same way I’m astounded by some of the modern surreealists I usually feature.

      • Pat says:

        I figured you would like the fact that his work was edgy by the standards of the day and his rebellion. Thanks for filling me in on the rest. 🙂 I enjoy the same qualities in people – maybe why I follow you.

  2. Hi, Stephen! Thanks for showing me Seurat again. I saw his paintings (or some of them) in a display on pointillism when I was in graduate school, but I’ve not seen them since, and I forgot what a sheer delight and a forever-summer-regardless-of-what-season-painted his works are.

    • Hi Victoria … well, I missed last week, so I wanted go big this week. I don’t know when or where it was, but a little while back I saw some of his work, and I was reminded of how much I liked it … for the exact same reasons you touch on in your reply. Now I’m even more into his work (and his incredible technique), as the research that I did exposed me to a lot of his work I had not seen, some of which are featured in this gallery. Sometimes it’s great to really examine the work of the masters. For his time, he and his pointillism were pretty radical, another cool thing!

  3. Great post. I always did like Seurat. And it fascinates me how he was able to create these wonderful paintings with dots of color.

  4. Angeline M says:

    Love Seurat’s work! An inspiration for me. What a pity that he died so young; what he could have done if he had more time.

    • Hi Angeline … yah, and he died of some mysterious illness … ironically, and tragically, his young son died of the same affliction two months after Seurat’s death. When you think of you he was when he died, the scope and amount of work he produced is pretty amazing.

  5. Terri says:

    YES. I love Seurat. I always feel like pointillism is an exercise in pulling order out of chaos. I’m so glad you wrote this post! I really enjoyed it.

  6. restlessjo says:

    Nice to find a little Impressionism in here, Stephen 🙂

  7. Paula says:

    Now you are talking!!! This appeals to me more than some modern surrealist art you showcased :D. Seriously Stephen, his work is mind-blowing 🙂

  8. pommepal says:

    Amazing technique and all his work has a lovely summery look. Thank you for gathering this collection together to show us.

  9. Madhu says:

    I love his work too, although I haven’t seen too many in person. This is a special treat Stephen.

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