A Look at the Artist: Georges Seurat

History fanatics and art enthusiasts probably already know how Georges Seurat (also known as Georges Pierre Seurat) is a well-known French painter and the founder of the 19th century French School of Neo-Impressionism born in Paris in the year 1859. His technique of portraying the play of light in his paintings, through hundreds and thousands of tiny flickering dots, using contrasting colors, became known as Pointillism.

About Georges Seurat

Georges Seurat was born to a wealthy family – his father, being a legal official, worked with the government and provided Georges with good overall art education. Georges first studied drawing under the sculptor Justin Lequien during night school. Later on, he was accepted into an art school named ‘Ecole des Beaux-Arts’ in 1878. 

After studying for two whole years, Georges served in the military for an entire year. He returned to Paris right after, and once back home, he moved into his studio, wanting to spend the next two years truly mastering the technique of black and white drawing.

Georges was always curious and experimenting with making his art better. Which also made him study the science behind color theory, from where his perspective of color perception altogether grew.

An Artist Way Ahead of His Time

This technique that he was developing back then happened to operate just like our television screens today. The thousands of colored pixels, also compared to tiny flickering dots, combined to make up for a whole scene when looked at from a distance. But, astonishingly, Georges also came across and used the recently discovered theory of complementary colors. This gave Georges Seurat artworks a new direction and liveliness, which was way ahead of his time.

Georges Seurat used his technique of Pointillism to create massive compositions with tiny, inconspicuous, individual strokes of pure color. Which were highly unlikely to be distinguished when looking at the entire piece at once, which also made his paintings have a lot of character and uniqueness, making them stand out from the others.

How Did the Title ‘Pointillism’ Come Into Play?

Although not many seem to know of this, a whole branch of Impressionism stems from Georges Seurat and an artist named Paul Signac. Around the late 1880s, art critics rather offensively used the term ‘Pointillism’ to mock these artists- every great artist goes through a few rough patches before they blow up, right? Though this term has been reclaimed in today’s times and is used without the negative connotations, it once held.

Did You Know What Georges Seurat’s First Major Painting Was?

During the year 1883, Georges painted his first major painting, which was known as ‘Bathers at Asnières’, an intriguing yet significant painting that pictures young men relaxing in a busy working-class suburb of Paris near the Seine.

Being the founder of the 19th-century French school of Neo-Impressionism, Georges Seurat was an artist who creatively simplified things like the use of paint. He probably spent hours and days carefully forging tiny little dots with his brush, making small strokes- infused with character. With these, he used various palettes of contrasting colors. To portray the play of light without a ridiculous amount of fuss or the physical mixing of colors. 

Where Did Georges Seurat Get Inspiration for His Art Style From?

Being an artist my whole life, I can approve of the fact that one of the most asked questions posed to any artist, be it a painter, potter, or someone who makes sketches, is more often than not how they came across. Their art style? In Georges Seurat’s case, he seems to have a relatively straightforward answer to this. 

When it came to this artist, he loved to explore art, thus reaching the point where he studied the science of both optics and color. Georges discovered that instead of mixing multiple paint colors on a palette, he could easily place a range of dots and strokes of different pure colors beside each other on his canvas. 

Then, his eyes would do the work of mixing them for him, just like that. Georges called this same painting technique, Divisionism- maybe because he divided every aspect so much that it came down to a couple of dots, but you never know! This style is now referred to as Pointillism, as I’ve mentioned earlier. 

The Pointillistic (also known as Divisionistic) style of Georges Seurat gained mainstream attention somewhere around the mid-1880s. ‘Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte’ is simply the starting point of the journey of this incredibly talented painter. 

Sunday Afternoon on the Island of la Grande Jatte 1886 – Georges Seurat

This painting, later on, turned out to be one of his most appreciated and famous paintings. ‘Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte’ is also classified as one of the most significant artworks of the century. The pointillistic style of Georges Seurat added a whole new dimension to the canvas of modern art altogether.

What Is Optical Color Mixing?

When composing the forms on his paintings, Georges Seurat made use of three pure primary color pigments: red, yellow, and blue. Seurat understood the phenomenon and science behind Optical color mixing and used it to his benefit. Optical color mixing occurs when a viewer perceives the color in an image, which is a result of two or more colors combined. Our eyes experience an illusion, and we see a perceived color from a distance that doesn’t exist on the surface of the canvas itself.

Georges understood from his scientific studies of light and color that a rather unique, astonishing phenomenon called optical color mixture comes into play when viewed from a distance, as our eyes weave the colors together to create new ones right before them.

The Bottom Line

Georges Seurat’s work has been a significant help in advancing the theory of Impressionism and has opened routes for substantial new possibilities in modern art. All of this was a considerable achievement for a young painter back in those days. Georges Seurat turned out to be an all-around artist by the time he reached the young age of 25. And his paintings still hang up in the museum of Musee d’Orsay and other well-known museums in Paris.

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