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Georges Seurat: Biography, Painting & Facts

Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

In a complete departure from earlier Impressionist painters, Georges Seurat chose to focus on color, often at the expense of shape or form, to form the reality he wanted the viewer to see. A pioneer of pointillism, his work is remarkable in its ability to introduce light and color.

Life of Georges Seurat

Georges Seurat was born into a wealthy French family in1859, and he studied a variety of artistic techniques from an early age. Upon adulthood, he spent a year preparing for a career in the military before returning to his first love, art. Originally focusing on monochromatic art, Seurat soon began to use color in exciting new ways.

In addition to his explorations in color, the artist also took up a relationship with an artist's model named Madeleine Knoblock. Marrying the woman was out of the question, given Seurat's relatively lofty status afforded by his family's wealth, but that did not stop the artist from inviting his mistress to move in with him.

Tragically, the union was short-lived. Seurat died soon after the couple began co-habitating, at the age of 31. Thereafter, the couple's young son also died, as well as the baby that Knoblock had been left widowed with.

Techniques Pioneered by Seurat

Georges Seurat is most remembered today for his work in the fields of Pointillism and Chromoluminarism, both crucial techniques within Post Impressionism.

The first of these techniques, Pointillism, is perhaps what the artist is the most well remembered for. The technique involves using countless small dots of paint on a larger canvas to create an image. In doing so, the artist allows different colors of paint to mix more freely, knowing that the human eye will meld the colors together into a richer end result than would be possible with the use of one or two colors alone.

The second technique, Chromoluminarism, greatly accentuates the use of Pointillism. Chromoluminarism leaves white space between the dots, which from a distance acts to lighten the color of the entire composition. In this way, Seurat was able to give his work incredible light, all the while even making the darkest hues more vibrant and alive.

Selected Works

One cost of the increased vibrancy of color present in Seurat's work is that shape and movement suffer. As a result, many of his paintings appear somewhat stilted. However, it is important to bear in mind that Seurat chose not to express life through shape and movement, but instead through color. In this, he was quite different than other Impressionist masters, who often considered shape to be of vital importance.

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