Bielefeld, Kunsthalle Bielefeld & Baden-Baden, Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, Georges Seurat: Zeichnungen, 1983-84, no. 14, illustrated in the catalogue
The key role of drawings in Seurat's career is clearly evident today—the posthumous inventory of his work 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. The present work, La nourrice
, showcases the artist’s ability to employ subtle chiaroscuro to suggest a significant detail with simplified lines and forms. The creation of lively dimensionality through the juxtaposition of light and dark pigments has become a signature feature of Seurat’s paintings, yet it is impressive to find a similar effect in the pencil drawings that predate his Pointillist period; as such an example, La nourrice
gives significant insight into the artist’s process. Meanwhile, the close cropping which isolates the figure from any context is similarly typical of the artist's approach, and it prefigures the flat pictorial compositions that would be undertaken by the Nabis.
Seurat’s contemporaries praised the studious dedication apparent in his drawings. "The result of Seurat's studies was his intelligent and fruitful theory of contrast, to which he would thereafter submit all of his oeuvres. Firstly he applied it to chiaroscuro: with simple resources, the white of a sheet of Ingres paper and the black of Conté crayon, carefully shaded or contrasted, he executed around four hundred drawings, the most beautiful 'painter's drawings' that have ever existed. Because of this perfect mastery of values, it could be said that these 'black and whites' are more luminous and more colourful than many paintings" (Paul Signac, D'Eugène Delacroix au Néo-Impressionisme, Paris, 1899).