Georges Seurat

Georges Seurat

Style: Post-Impressionism

Lived: December 2, 1859 - March 29, 1891 (19th century)

Nationality: France


Georges Pierre Seurat was born on 2 December 1859 in Paris. His father, Chrysostome-Antoine Seurat, had been a legal official in La Villette. He had saved a substantial amount of money and lived a secluded life as a pensioner in his house in the Provence and visited his family in Paris just once a week. Seurat’s mother, Ernestine Faivre, came from a prosperous middle-class Parisian family.

During his schooldays, Seurat was introduced to painting by an uncle on his mother's side, the textile dealer Paul Haumonté-Faivre, himself an amateur painter. In 1875 he started to attend a drawing class taught by the sculptor Justin Lequien at a night school in the city.

Seurat studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1878 and 1879. After a year of military service at Brest military academy, he returned to Paris in 1880. He started off sharing a confined studio on the Left Bank with two student friends before moving to a studio of his own. For the next two years, he devoted himself to mastering the art of black and white drawing. He spent 1883 on a huge canvas, Bathing at Asnieres, his first major painting.


The next, 1884, year Seurat’s first large painting, Bathers at Asnières, was rejected by the Salon. However, it was shown in the exhibition held by the Société des Artistes Indépendants. It was there that Seurat became acquainted with Paul Signac, with whom he soon became close friends. After Bathers at Asnières Seurat started working on another large canvas A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, in which he was to create a new style and also to found an artistic movement, called variously Neo-Impressionism, Pointillism or Divisionism, the last term preferred by Seurat.

After working on La Grande Jatte for two years, Seurat exhibited the painting in 1886 at the eight and final Impressionist exhibition. The large picture, measured more than two meters by three, and executed in an entirely new technique using dots, was received in very different ways, like the first Impressionist exhibition twelve years before. It was precisely the picture's technique that aroused the most displeasure amongst the public, critics and artists.

Only one art critic, Félix Fénéon (1861-1944), proved able to understand and subsequently write an informed analysis of Seurat’s technique and style, “If one looks at any uniformly shaded area in Seurat’s Grande Jatte, one can find on every centimeter of it a swirling swarm of small dots which contains all the elements which comprise the color desired. Take that patch of lawn in the shade; most of the dots reflect the local colors of the grass, others, orange-colored and much scarcer, express the barely perceptible influence of the sun; occasional purple dots establish the complementary color of green; a cyanine blue, necessitated by an adjacent patch of lawn in full sunlight, becomes increasingly dense closer to the borderline, but beyond this line gradually loses its intensity… Juxtaposed on the canvas but yet distinct, the colors reunite on the retina: hence we have before us not a mixture of pigment colors but a mixture of variously colored rays of light ."


He later moved away from Boulevard de Clichy to a quieter studio nearby, where secretly he lived with a young model, Madeleine Knobloch. In February 1890, she gave birth to his son. It was not until two days before his death that he introduced his young family to his mother. He died at the age of 31 of diphtheria and was interred in Le Père Lachaise Cemetery. His last ambitious work, The Circus, was left unfinished at the time he died.

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