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Georges Pierre Seurat

Rosenberg Library hosted a traveling exhibit which featured the artist Georges Pierre Seurat (1859 - 1890). Seurat was a French painter and draftsman whose large work, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884 - 1886), is an icon of 19th century painting. Designed especially for children and families, three lightweight satin panels explored his scientific technique which altered the direction of modern art.

Seurat was born to a prosperous Parisian family in 1859, and attended the Ecole des Beaux-Arts when he was nineteen where he devoted himself to mastering the art of black and white drawing. In 1883, he completed his first major painting titled Bathers at Asnières. To his disbelief, it was rejected by the Paris Salon, and after turning away from such establishments he immersed himself among the independent bohemian artists of his city. In 1884 he and other artists formed the Société des Artistes Indépendants. There he befriended Paul Signac, shared his ideas about pointillism, and began work on his masterpiece, Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, which took him two years to complete.

Georges Seurat believed that science was a prominent theme and tool in painting. At this time the scientist, Michel Eugène Chevreul, was the most important influence on artists with his production of the color wheel of primary and intermediary hues. Chevreul discovered that two colors that slightly overlapped or were very close together would have the same effect as another color when seen from a distance. The scientific discovery of this phenomenon became the basis for Seurat’s pointillism. Pointillism is the technique of using dots to create brighter images and depth in an artwork.

Art critics were hesitant to accept such techniques, but pointillism was eventually acknowledged and Seurat was seen as a creator of the Neo-Impressionist movement. Georges Seurat died at the age of thirty-one. The cause of his death is uncertain, but has been attributed to a form of pneumonia and diphtheria. His last work, The Circus, was left unfinished at the time of his death.