Georges Seurat: The Art of Vision

Georges Seurat: The Art of Vision

Language: English

Pages: 235

ISBN: 0300208359

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

This revelatory study of Georges Seurat (1859–1891) explores the artist’s profound interest in theories of visual perception and analyzes how they influenced his celebrated seascape, urban, and suburban scenes. While Seurat is known for his innovative use of color theory to develop his pointillist technique, this book is the first to underscore the centrality of diverse ideas about vision to his seascapes, figural paintings, and drawings. Michelle Foa highlights the importance of the scientist Hermann von Helmholtz, whose work on the physiology of vision directly shaped the artist’s approach. Foa contends that Seurat’s body of work constitutes a far-reaching investigation into various modes of visual engagement with the world and into the different states of mind that visual experiences can produce. Foa’s analysis also brings to light Seurat’s sustained exploration of long-standing and new forms of illusionism in art. Beautifully illustrated with more than 140 paintings and drawings, this book serves as an essential reference on Seurat. 

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contiguous sites. Studying the Grande Jatte and Seine at Courbevoie side by side, as Seurat had exhibited them, gives one the distinct sense that the smaller painting represents a figure who had wandered away from the crowd depicted in the Grande Jatte and was taking in different views of the surrounding landscape from various parts of the island. According to a little-discussed letter written by Paul Signac, this is in fact precisely the relationship between the sites represented in the two

such a complete absence of drawing.”21 The critical consensus, then, was that Seurat had rendered his figures in an illusionistically unconvincing fashion, failing to convey a basic sense of their lifelikeness and mobility in space, either deliberately or due to his lack of technical skill. The repeated analogy of Seurat’s figures to dolls, marionettes, and the like is significant not only because it conveys an absence of lifelikeness, but also because it implies their lack of interiority, their

seascapes and landscapes, which are, in our opinion, the best side of his talent.”1 And other critics who were unreceptive to Seurat’s figural paintings or to NeoImpressionism more broadly would often make exceptions for Seurat’s seascapes, expressing (sometimes begrudging) admiration for his work in that genre.2 Despite the positive reception of Seurat’s seascapes by the critics, these works were not generally given the same level of attention as his figural paintings. Critics, for the most

critical reception of the movement that is important for understanding Seurat’s drawings was the widespread lament of the impersonality of Neo-Impressionist painting. The supposed uniformity of pointillist marks, combined with the perception that the same style was shared by all the members of the group, left no place for the expression of individuality in their work, some complained. Jules Desclozeaux, for example, argued that “all of these canvases, not very independent, [are] composed

And here, too, as the hand of the artist both works the surface of the paper and seems to run over the back of the model, touch is rendered as a supplement to and an interruption of a purely visual comprehension of the figure’s form. Having thus far analyzed the drawings from the perspective of their shared formal and thematic features, I want to turn now to Seurat’s exhibition practices and strategies as they pertain to this part of his œuvre. As I argued in relation to Seurat’s figural

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