2 December 1859, the French Post-Impressionist and Pointilist painter Georges Seurat was born in Paris.
“Art is Harmony. Harmony is the analogy of the contrary and of similar elements of tone, of color and of line.“ (Georges Seurat)
|Georges Seurat: "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" (1884 - 1886)|
It was a long time since the Renaissance came up with the idea of painting along the lines of scientific knowledge and evidence, even beyond mere anatomy. Different themes were given precedence in the meanwhile, death and transfiguration, Romantic glamorisation, capturing fleeting moments and what not, until the 19th century’s surveying of the world found its expression in the visual arts. Taking up the thread from Goethe and Helmholtz and their theory of colours, several scientists formulated theories on optical effects and perception. Artists of almost all stylistic persuasions took keen interest in these new scientific findings but few of note made the effort of putting them into artistic practice during the second half of the 19th and only one formulated his own theory. Around 1884, young Georges Seurat laid down the principle of separating colours into individual dots to interact optically to achieve the maximum possible luminosity instead of just mixing them physically. Calling his new approach according to the endearing contemporary scientific mode of labelling “chromoluminarism”, a characteristic new style that made the young artist become one of the great pioneers of modernism.
|Georges Seurat: "The Bathers" (1888)|
Actually, Seurat saw himself rather in the tradition of the great salon painters and his best known works show classicist calmness and well planned arrangements, even though his sujets were usually those of the moderns, every day scenes, landscapes, everyman and – woman of the Boheme. Critic was harsh from various sides, established reviewers refused his work out of hand, naturally, while churned up art trends like the symbolists found some harsh words as well. As Joris-Karl Huysmans put it: “Strip his figures of the colored fleas that cover them, underneath there is nothing, no thought, no soul, nothing” and many impressionists like Monet and Renoir would not allow to have their paintings exhibited along with Seurat’s. His method to do preliminaries for his major paintings did not endear them to the spontaneous impressionists anyway and says a lot about Seurat’s approach on art that was later called Neo-Impressionism while his chromoluminarism became known as Divisionism. And in the stylistic gap between Impressionism and Cubism, Seurat froze the fleeting impression of a moment and brought movement to the point of academic abstraction, transcending defined lines, until his stylistic successors finalised the line of thought, perception and conception from the thing in itself to complete abstraction a generation after Seurat’s early death in 1891.
|Georges Seurat: "Le Cahut" (1888 - 1890)|
Depicted above is Seurat’s “Le Cahut”, a rare neo-impressionistic capture of a post-impressionistic moment of Parisian life, painted between 1889-90, a year before his death.
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