Seurat and Pointillism

Georges Seurat: A Sunday on La Grande Jatte — 1884- Encyclopædia Britannica Detail

Georges Seurat pioneered the technique of pointillism making some of the worlds most captivating works of art in the process. This technique single handedly revolutionized several aspects in painting and art theory. Pointillism is a method that saw its beginnings at the end of the 19th century thanks to Paul Signac and Georges Seurat. This method focuses on the way that the paint is applied.

Seurat- The Seine and la Grande Jatte — Springtime 1888 Wikimedia Commons

These works are covered in fairly dense dots of different solid colors to create the illusion of shapes. Pointillism came to life as a reaction to the impressionist movement. However, contrary to impressionism, pointillism attempted to depict its subjects with a controlled and methodical approach.

Seurat would carefully and slowly place dots of different colors. The purpose is for the eyes to blend these colors when viewed at a distance. This illusion works just like pixels, the eye basically composes the image automatically, this effect works best at a certain distance.

Circus Sideshow 1887 Wikimedia Commons

One of the most impressive things about pointillism is the way in which it would use color theory. Looking at this portrait we can see mostly warm colored tones like : pink, red, orange and brown. Instead of using darker warm colors as shadows, Seurat utilized cool colors like: blue, green and purple. This being a smart choice because, when placed together, complementary colors can create the illusion of shadows.

TAKING A LOOK AT “A SUNDAY ON LA GRANDE JATTE” (1886)

Georges Seurat: A Sunday on La Grande Jatte — 1884- Encyclopædia Britannica D

This masterpiece was created from 1884 to 1886, in three stages. He created numerous sketches and studies as preparation.

The painting measures at a colossal 81" by 121".

It is part of the Art Institute of Chicago Permanent Collection.

Seurat, most probably, used round and bright brushes to paint. In the first layers of this piece, he used darker tones with longer strokes. Seurat built up the layers by approaching the painting with brighter colors and tones.

Georges Seurat: A Sunday on La Grande Jatte — 1884- Encyclopædia Britannica Detail

One important thing to note is the direction of stokes. We can see that the hat is made up of strokes that follow its circled shape. These greatly contribute to the illusions created by the painting.

The work has a border painted by the artist, which is a very uncommon and unique element. The message behind the piece is not certainly clear. However, it is theorized that it speaks on a social critique of the Parisian Bourgeoisie in a sardonic manner. It is also theorized that the bourgeois figures in this painting are gazing at the “Bathers in Asnières” who are figures in another painting of Seurat. The artists sees the latter as the future and better citizens of Paris.

Baigneurs a Asnieres-Seurat 1884 Wikimedia Commons

Thank you for reading

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Montreal based since 1985, we provide businesses with high quality art supplies. Take a look through our blog to learn more about art materials, history & more!

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