Georges Seurat: Artist Portrait

Georges Seurat

Born 1859. Died 1891.
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Georges Seurat Biography

French painter Georges Seurat garnered international acclaim, and is known predominantly in the historical canon for his pioneering of the Neoimpressionist technique known as Pointillism; a mode identifiable by its use of small dots, or points, of paint that together, and viewed from afar, create a cohesive image. Though his life and career were short – he died at the young age of 31 – his artistic innovations influenced subsequent generations of artists, from Vincent van Gough to the Futurists.

Seurat was born in Paris, France, in 1859. He began studying under Henri Lehmann, a student of Ingres, at the École des Beaux Arts in 1878. In 1883, he exhibited for the first time at the official Salon, but the following year the Salon’s jury rejected his submissions. The rejection inspired Seurat along with fellow artists Paul Signac, Odilon Redon, and others to found the Société des Artistes Indépendants, which began holding an annual Salon des Indépendants that operated outside the stringent policies of the official Salon. It was around this time that Seurat, along with Signac and Henri-Edmond Cross, began developing Divisionism – which he would later term Pointillism. The object of this method was to create the appearance of natural light through points of paint placed closely together, so that when viewed they would meld together.

Around 1884, Signac introduced Seurat to leading Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro, who even began employing Pointillism in his own work for a time. In the summer of the same year, Seurat began working on what would become his most well-known and iconic work, La Grande Jatte, which he completed and exhibited in 1886. The work was well received by critics, and particularly interested fellow artists who were drawn to the novel technique it exhibited.

Following the success of La Grande Jatte, Seurat began work on other significant works, such as Le Cirque (1891), but during the installation of a Salon des Indépendants he fell critically ill and died in 1891. Due to the briefness of his career, his oeuvre consists of few works –some estimate there are less than 50 paintings. Nevertheless, his aesthetic innovations and pioneering techniques left an indelible mark on the history of Western art, and many of his paintings are in major museum collections such as the Art Institute of Chicago, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, the State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, and the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, among others.

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