Lot 8
  • 8

Georges Seurat

500,000 - 700,000 GBP
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  • Georges Seurat
  • Fort de la Halle
  • Conté crayon on laid paper
  • 32 by 25.5cm.
  • 12 5/8 by 10in.


Estate of the artist

Emile Seurat, Paris (the artist's brother, by descent from the above in 1891)

Paul Signac, France (acquired by 1908; until 1935)

Jacques Chambuin, Paris 

Acquired from the above by the late owner on 12th December 1977


Paris, La Revue Blanche, Georges Seurat, Œuvres dessinées, Paris, 1900

Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Rétrospective Georges Seurat, 1908-09, no. 171

Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Les Dessins de Seurat, 1926, no. 58

Baden-Baden, Staatliche Kunsthalle, Georges Seurat Zeichnungen, 1984

Paris, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais & New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Georges Seurat, 1991-92, no. 38 (in Paris); no. 39 (in New York), illustrated in the catalogue (as dating from 1882-84)

Bern, Kunstmuseum & Hamburg, Kunsthalle, Zeichnen ist Sehen, Meisterwerke von Ingres bis Cézanne aus dem Museum der Bildenden Künste Budapest und aus Schweizer Sammlungen, 1996, no. 98, illustrated in the catalogue

Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preussischer Kulturbesitz,  Linie, Licht und Schatten. Meisterzeichnungen und Skulpturen der Sammlung Jan und Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, 1999, no. 113, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Venice, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, The Timeless Eye. Master Drawings from the Jan and Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski Collection,1999, no. 124, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Miradas sin Tiempo. Dibujos, Pinturas y Esculturas de la Coleccion Jan y Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, 2000, no. 149, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Paris, Musée Jacquemart-André, La Passion du Dessin. Collection Jan et Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, 2002, no. 138, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Vienna, Albertina, Goya bis Picasso. Meisterwerke der Sammlung Jan Krugier und Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, 2005, no. 82, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Munich, Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Das Ewige Auge - Von Rembrandt bis Picasso. Meisterwerke aus der Sammlung Jan Krugier und Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, 2007, no. 137, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

New York, The Museum of Modern Art,  Georges Seurat: The Drawings, 2007-08, no. 40, illustrated in the catalogue (as dating from 1882-84)


Thadée Natanson, 'Un primitif d'aujourd'hui: Georges Seurat', in La Revue Blanche, Paris, 15th April 1900, illustrated p. 611

Lucie Cousturier, Georges Seurat, Paris, 1921, no. 28, illustrated

Lucie Cousturier, Georges Seurat, Paris, 1926, illustrated pl. 50

Gustave Kahn, Les Dessins de Georges Seurat, Paris, 1928, illustrated pl. 43

Claude Roger-Marx, Seurat, Paris, 1931, illustrated pl. 22

Daniel Catton Rich, Seurat and the Evolution of 'La Grande Jatte', Chicago, 1935, no. 15, mentioned p. 60

Jacques de Laprade, Georges Seurat, Monaco, 1945, illustrated pl. 83 (as dating from circa 1883)

André Lhote, Seurat, Paris, 1948, illustrated pl. 2

César M. de Hauke, Seurat et son œuvre, Paris, 1961, vol. II, no. 484, illustrated p. 91

Robert L. Herbert, Seurat's Drawings, New York, 1962, illustrated fig. 68

John Russell, Seurat, London, 1965, illustrated pl. 49

Gustave Kahn, The Drawings of Georges Seurat, New York, 1971, no. 63, illustrated

Richard Thomson, Seurat, Oxford, 1985, fig. 71, illustrated p. 68

Alain Madeleine-Perdrillat, Seurat, Geneva, 1990, illustrated p. 28

Françoise Cachin, Seurat, Le Rêve de l'Art-Science, Paris, 1991, illustrated fig. 2

Michael F. Zimmermann, Seurat and the Art Theory of his Time, Antwerp, 1991, no. 232, illustrated p. 60

Bruce Laughton, The Drawings of Daumier and Millet, New Haven & London, 1991, illustrated p. 199

Robert L. Herbert, Seurat Drawings and Paintings, New Haven & London, 2001, illustrated pl. 21


Executed on laid Michelet paper, laid down on board. The left edge appears to be slightly unevenly trimmed. This work is in very good condition. Colours: Overall fairly accurate in the printed catalogue illustration, although the paper has a slightly less yellow tonality 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

Executed circa 1882, Fort de la Halle is a stunning example of Seurat’s virtuosity with the medium of Conté crayon drawing. The subject of this exquisite composition is a porter at the Parisian produce market Les Halles, wearing the characteristic wide-brimmed hat and jacket. The figure, executed in dark tones and dominating the sheet, is accompanied by a chair and a carrying rack depicted in lighter strokes of crayon. In his numerous figure drawings, Seurat chose as his subject people going about their daily lives on the streets of Paris – he executed two further drawings of market porters (fig. 1) and various kinds of workers as well as elegant, well-dressed members of the upper classes. In all of them, however, the artist was not interested in studying the individuality of his models, but chose instead to focus on depicting different types that made up the everyday life of the metropolis. Similarly, he does not offer a detailed rendering of the setting of the scene; here the faint horizontal line across the centre of the composition differentiates the domain of the market from the unidentified world beyond it, with only a few of the porter’s attributes signalling the man’s occupation and his surroundings.


In his ‘private codification of Paris’ (Richard Thomson, op. cit., p. 68), Seurat’s drawings of various types that exemplify sections of society are indebted to contemporary graphic media, such as engravings and lithographs he would have seen in publications or exhibitions. Emile-Henri Blanchon’s A Porter at Les Halles (fig. 2), the oil version of which Seurat would have seen exhibited at the Salon in 1884, shares its subject matter with the present work: ‘the porter, identified by his characteristic hat, stands vigorous inside the Parisian central market, while behind him we see a cross-section of the market’s activities and even another porter demonstrating how their loads were carried. This was a documentary approach, whereas Seurat’s drawing eliminates background to a stage beyond even the summary indication standard in prints, leaving us to recognize the figure by his costume alone, and relying on power of draughtsmanship to give a sense of the man’s muscular build’ (ibid., p. 68).


Discussing Seurat’s depictions of market porters and vendors (fig. 3), Michael F. Zimmermann wrote about an important source of inspiration for this group of works: ‘From the seventeenth century onwards, series of engravings devoted to street-vendors and other social types were popular; the 1837 volume of engravings which Count Caylus made from drawings by Edmé Bouchardon and which was called Etudes prises dans le bas peuple, ou les cris de Paris (Studies of ordinary people or the Cries of Paris) was immensely successful. During the nineteenth century the ‘Cries of Paris’ was a very popular theme, and many artists and illustrators were influenced by it. Seurat, especially in his drawing of a porter at the Paris central market (Les Halles) [the present work], seems to have concentrated on a group of people typical of a certain working milieu. These porters had enormous hats with a special frame on top which enabled them to move heavy produce. […] As a rule [Seurat] boiled detail down in order to highlight the universality of such social types’ (M. F. Zimmermann, op. cit., p. 124).


Writing about Seurat’s Conté crayon drawings from this period, Alain Madeleine-Perdrillat observed: ‘As for the black crayon drawings from 1881-1882, almost all represent people observed in the street or in the country. […] he worked on capturing a general posture, synthetically, not bothering with details […]. The contours are formed by clean strokes, fragments of straight lines firmly delineating the figures, which are often nothing more than silhouettes. More often than not, instead of the traditional softly graded shading, he used oblique hatching to suggest volume and shadows by composing planes of greater or lesser darkness. […] this development, which was accelerated during the first months of 1882, blazed the trail for the most important, if not the most intense and moving portion of Seurat’s work, the large black Conté crayon drawings of the nature and late periods’ (A. Madeleine-Perdrillat, op. cit., pp. 31 & 33).


The present work remained in Seurat's possession until his death in 1891, when it passed on to his brother Emile. It was later acquired by Seurat's closest colleague, the fellow Neo-Impressionist Paul Signac, who also kept the drawing until the end of his life in 1935.