Lot 9
  • 9

Georges Seurat

400,000 - 600,000 GBP
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  • Georges Seurat
  • Liseur
  • Conté crayon on paper laid down on board
  • 31 by 22cm.
  • 12 1/4 by 8 5/8 in.


Paul Signac, Paris

Galerie Bernheim-Jeune & Cie., Paris

Galerie de l'Elysée, Paris

M. Renauld, Paris (acquired by 1942)

Private Collection, Switzerland

Private Collection, Switzerland (by descent from the above circa 1958. Sold: Christie's, New York, 7th November 2007, lot 138)

Purchased at the above sale by the present owner


Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune & Cie., Rétrospective Georges Seurat, 1908-09, no. 162

Paris, Galerie de France, Le Néo-Impressionnisme, 1942-43, no. 15

Bielefeld, Kunsthalle & Baden-Baden, Staatliche Kunsthalle, Georges Seurat, Zeichnungen, 1983-84, no. 22, illustrated in the catalogue


Les dessins de Georges Seurat (exhibition catalogue), Galerie Bernheim-Jeune & Cie., Paris, 1926, no. 51

C. M. de Hauke, Seurat et son œuvre, Paris, 1961, vol. II, no. 458, illustrated p. 75


Executed on cream wove paper, not laid down, hinged to the mount on the reverse of the top corners, floating in the mount. The paper has slightly discoloured and there are artist's pinholes in all four corners, with an associated very small repaired tear in the lower left corner. The top edge is uneven, probably due to the sheet having been taken out of a sketchbook, and there is a small loss on the lower edge (partly visible in the catalogue illustration). The medium is fresh and unfaded and this work is in good condition.
"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

One of the most innovative and celebrated draughtsmen of the nineteenth century, Georges Seurat created works on paper of ineffable beauty that are technically dazzling and emotionally compelling. Liseur is an early example of Seurat’s inimitable style. As Robert Herbert has observed: ‘By 1882, Seurat had created his unique style of drawing in which individual lines have disappeared in favour of large shadowy masses. He moulded his velvety forms by delicately rubbing the rough textured paper with a greasy conté crayon, and by using the end of the crayon to form an even more dense scumble of lines which finally merged into greys and blacks’ (R. Herbert, Seurat: Paintings and Drawings (exhibition catalogue), The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 1958).

Seurat’s method was influenced by the aesthetic theories of Charles Blanc and Humbert de Superville who published studies explaining how the direction of lines could elicit different emotions in the viewer. Using these theories as a foundation, Seurat developed a technique characterised by subtle tonal variations. Shapes are rarely defined, with contours never drawn, but rendered through expressive shadowing of carefully modulated density, and a calculated use of unblemished paper to create silhouettes, described thus by Gustave Kahn in 1929: ‘Seurat’s originality manifests itself through the simplified silhouettes of the figures and by the varying intensity of dark shadows which appear, as they move further away from the figures, to melt into white and black. One of the characteristics of Seurat’s drawings is that they are composed less for the sake of line than for atmosphere’ (G. Kahn, quoted in The Drawings of  Georges Seurat, New York, 1971, p. ix). At close inspection, the intensity of the manner in which the crayon is applied in Liseur defines the figure with little distinction between the body and the background that the figure becomes diffuse. At a distance, Seurat’s masterful technique allows previously indiscernible details to emerge. This phenomenon recalls the optic principles of Michel-Eugène Chevreul and Eugène Rood, which were at the root of Neo-Impressionism. Seurat strove to integrate these ideas not only into his paintings but also into his drawings, where he replaces colours with an infinite variety of shades of grey; the textured, granular effect of his drawings recalling the powdery haze of his Pointillist oils.