Lot 2
  • 2

Georges Seurat

750,000 - 1,000,000 GBP
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • Georges Seurat
  • indistinctly signed Seurat (lower right)
  • Conté crayon and gouache on paper
  • 31 by 24.2cm.
  • 12 1/4 by 9 1/2 in.


Léon Appert, Paris (the artist's brother-in-law; probably until 1925)
Mme Léon Roussel, Paris (by descent from the above and until at least 1934)
F. Roussel, Paris (until at least 1958)
Private Collection, Paris (sold: Ader Picard Tajan, Paris, 18th November 1989, lot 6)
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner


Paris, La Revue Blanche, Georges Seurat: œuvres peintes et dessinées, 1900, no. 41
Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Exposition Georges Seurat, 1908-09, no. 160 (titled Liseur)
Paris, Galerie des Beaux-Arts, Seurat et ses amis: La suite de l'Impressionnisme, 1933-34, no. 173 (titled Petit garçon assis)
Paris, Musée Jacquemart-André, Seurat, 1957, no. 50 (titled Enfant assis)
Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago & New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Seurat, Paintings and Drawings, 1958, no. 64 (titled Portrait of Maurice Appert and with incorrect measurements)
Paris, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais & New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Seurat, 1991-92, no. 174 (in Paris); no. 175 (in New York), illustrated in the catalogue (as dating from 1886-88)
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Georges Seurat: The Drawings, 2007-08, no. 96, illustrated in colour in the catalogue (as dating from 1886-88)


Jacques de Laprade, Georges Seurat, Monaco, 1945, no. 73, illustrated
César M. de Hauke, Seurat et son œuvre, Paris, 1961, vol. II, no. 607, illustrated p. 191
Robert L. Herbert, Seurat's Drawings, New York, 1962, no. 173
Michael F. Zimmermann, Seurat and the Art Theory of his Time, Antwerp, 1991, no. 97bis, illustrated p. 68 (titled Sitting Boy and as dating from 1882)

'Seurat's rendering of his nephew is one of his most iconic images.' Robert L. Herbert


Executed on white paper, not laid down, hinged to the mount in the top two corners, floating in the mount. Apart from a small area of retouching to the central section of the white gouache, this work is in very good condition. Colours: Overall fairly accurate in the printed catalogue illustration, although the black is slightly deeper and fresher and the white gouache is stronger in the original.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

'Seurat's principal works are all jammed higgledy-piggledy into the reception room at the Revue Blanche... And despite the lack of care, their serene and powerful beauty asserts itself' (Signac Journal, Archives Paul Signac). Paul Signac may have been thinking of Garçonnet assis, one of the most astonishing drawings executed by Georges Seurat, in his commentary on the first Seurat retrospective exhibition of paintings and drawings held at La Revue Blanche from 19th March to 5th April 1900, which included this important work. The key role of drawings in Seurat's career is clearly evident today - the posthumous inventory lists 527 works on paper. As César de Hauke explains in his catalogue raisonné, Seurat gave away or sold very few drawings during his lifetime. Yet Garçonnet assis was not in the artist's studio after his death in 1891.


Garçonnet assis is one of the most advanced Seurat drawings in terms of its pure technical complexity. Conceived as an independent drawing, it was not a study for a painting but rather realised as a finished work from its inception, as indicated by the subtle combination of Conté crayon and thick Michallet paper. The varied application of the crayon on the laid paper reveals the grid beneath, small white dots appearing on the deep surface of the paper. This technique adds texture to the boy's skin, his hands, nose, forehead and knees contrasting with the deep tones of his clothes. To create such rich blacks, Seurat applied a fixative between several layers of Conté crayon, much as he did in the portrait of his friend Aman-Jean, 1882-83 (H 588, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; fig. 1).


The miasma of lines that constitutes the background of the work, more intense on the edge of the sheet and lighter close around the figure, creates a luminous halo behind the boy and also gives an indication of space. As described by Robert L. Herbert, Seurat 'divided the background into two zones with the broad splash of light that marks the plane of the floor. The farthest point, curiously, in this streak of light that does not 'come forward' as conventional wisdom would predict' (R. L Herbert in Seurat (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., 1991, p. 263). While the bust of the figure forms a black hexagon, defined by the symmetry of the arms and the collar, the surface of the work is not flat and the scene is dynamic. The concentration of lines makes the background vibrate, merging greys and blacks, and interacting with the figure, particularly at the bottom of the drawing where the feet melt into the ground. The boy himself seems to be poised for action, his body slightly on the right of the bench.


This drawing is a portrait of Seurat's nephew Maurice Appert, third child of Léon Appert and the artist's sister Marie-Berthe, with whom he maintained a close relationship. Remaining with Léon Appert until his death, the work was most likely given to his brother-in-law by Seurat himself. Little is known about the young boy depicted, other than that he studied at the prestigious Ecole Centrale in Paris around 1889 (Jean Sutter, Recherches sur la vie de Seurat, 1964, unpublished document, ed. of 80, p. 25). Dating the work has been inconclusive: Hauke's catalogue raisonné gives a date of circa 1884; the art historian Michael F. Zimmermann suggests 1882, mistakenly linking the work with the painting Petit paysan en bleu executed that year (H 16). Robert Herbert, in his 1962 Seurat drawings catalogue, dated the work 1886-88, which seems possible given the style of the work and the addition of white gouache in the horizontal stripe of light behind the bench, a technique that appears frequently in the 1886-88 Cafés-concert series (fig. 2).


The artist depicted children in very few compositions: a small peasant in the painting Petit Paysan en bleu of 1882, a study for La Grande Jatte with the little girl L'Enfant blanc of 1884 (H 631), and in two other independent Conté drawings: Petite fille au chapeau niniche, 1882-84 (H 573) and Femme avec deux fillettes, 1882-84 (H 666, fig. 3) that represents his little nieces. While the children are the main subject of these works, their faces are not literally described. These portraits by Seurat are unique in the history of Western art. They differ from images of the children who modeled for the first official child portraits of the 18th century, who became stock characters, iconographic examples of the expectations of their parents and society. Yet they are also unlike the Impressionists' representations (particularly those of Renoir) which were among the first to change the character of this genre, depicting children of the educated bourgeoisie in intimate scenes. Not conceived as an official portrait, Garçonnet assis is a magnificent and intimate work that transcends the genre of portraiture, and shows Seurat's masterful use of the medium as well as his technique of chiaroscuro.

Vérane Tasseau



Fig. 1, Georges Seurat, Aman-Jean, 1882-83, Conté crayon on paper, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Fig. 2, Georges Seurat, Au Divan japonais, circa 1887-88, Conté crayon and gouache on paper. Sold: Sotheby's, Paris, 3rd December 2008

Fig. 3, Georges Seurat, Femme avec deux fillettes, 1882-84, Conté crayon on paper. Sold: Sotheby's, Paris, 28th May 2009