Georges Seurat was born in Paris, France on December 2, 1859. Seurat's father Antoine-Chrisostome spent most his time in a cottage in Le Raincy, and his mother Ernestine Faivre raised Seurat and his siblings in Paris.
Seurat began to draw at an early age, and in 1875, he took a course with sculptor Justin Lequien. Several years later, Seurat enrolled at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and studied with Henri Lehmann. Seurat remained at the school for two years, during which time he discovered a book entitled Essai sur les signes inconditionnels de l'art (Essay on the Unmistakable Signs of Art) by Humbert de Superville. This discovery of the relationship between lines and images became the inspiration for Seurat's entire career.
Seurat left the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1879 to perform his military service in Brest. While in Brest, Seurat drew scenes of the beaches and sea. He returned to Paris the following year and studied again with Lehmann. However, Seurat's style was unconventional, and he soon broke with the school. At this time, Seurat shared a studio with another painter, Edmond-Francois Aman-Jean, and in 1881, the two traveled to the island of La Grande Jatte. It was here that Seurat received the inspiration for many of his future works.
Seurat's first official exhibition at the Salon in Paris took place in 1883, but the next year his painting "Une Baignade, Asnieres" was refused by the jury. As a result, Seurat exhibited with the foundation of the Groupe des Artistes Independants, who promoted the development of modern art.
During the next year, Seurat worked on an immense painting entitled "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte." The final painting was preceded by more than 200 drawings and oil studies. He completed the almost mural-sized work in 1886, and it was displayed with great interest at an Impressionist art show from May 15 to June 15.
In 1887, Seurat began working on his final large composition entitled "Les Poseuses." He completed it the following year along with another work entitled "La Parade." During 1888 and 1889, Seurat exhibited his paintings at the exposition of the Twenty (XX) in Brussels and in the Salon des Independants in Paris. During this time, Seurat lived with his mistress, Madeleine Knobloch, and on February 16, 1890, they had a son Pierre-Georges Seurat.
In 1890, Seurat began to work on what became his final painting, "Le Cirque." Although the painting was incomplete, Seurat exhibited it at the Salon des Independants. While Seurat helped organize the exhibit, he became ill due to exhaustion. Before the exhibit ended, died on March 29, 1891. He was 31 years old.
In all, Seurat completed seven major paintings, 40 smaller paintings or sketches, and approximately 500 drawings. The Pointillism technique, in which small dots of color are grouped to create a vibrant work, that Seurat introduced was adopted by his followers, the Neo-Impressionists.
Want to learn more?