Landscape was the predominant genre in Georges Seurat's works of the early 1880s, and the artist often made painting excursions to the countryside outside Paris in search of subjects. These early oils and drawings were influenced by the Realism of mid nineteenth-century Barbizon artists such as Corot and Millet. The technique employed in this picture also attests to the influence of Delacroix, whose work Seurat had studied in depth in 1881, making detailed notes on the expressive use of colour, exploring the possibility of using small, separate touches of pigment rather than pre-mixing shades on the palette. Signac has observed that in Seurat's oeuvre this technique can be traced as far back as these early rural scenes, writing: "... from 1882, he applied the laws of contrast to colour and painted with separate elements – using muted tones, it is true – without having being influenced by the Impressionists for at this point he was not aware of their existence" (Paul Signac, D'Eugène Delacroix au néo-impressionnisme, 1899). The distinct, separate applications of colour here, notably to convey the effect of sunlight in the background, foreshadow the Post-Impressionist, Pointillist technique that would become the hallmark of Seurat's mature style.
This work belonged to Félix Fénéon, anarchist and art critic, who would coin the term "Neo-Impressionism" in 1886 to identify the group of artists led by Seurat. Couchant was bought at the Fénéon estate sale in 1947 and has stayed in the same family to this day.
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