Portrait of Edmond Francois Aman-Jean, 1882, conte crayon on Michallet paper. This portrait of a childhood friend is the first work which the artist exhibited publicly. Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
Below no bigger than an I-Pad and just as beautifully made: a Georges Seurat painting, oil on wood, 1890 of Moored Boats and Trees in the pointiliste technique.
Seurat’s paintings seem always to be still, poised, not a hair out of place.
Moored Boats and Trees, 1890, oil on canvas. Philadelphia Art Musuem
Below from the collection at MOMA, New York is the last painting Seurat did in preparation for A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, 1886-1888, oil on canvas, now at the Chicago Art Institute.
The last study for Afternoon at La Grande Jatte, 1886-88, MOMA, New York. 2015
Poseuses and detail, 1887-88, oil on canvas: a miniature version of a painting at the Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia (which does not allow photos of its collection). In private collection displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the spring of 2017.
La Grande Jatte is the painting sitting on the floor against the wall.
Study for Poseuses, Conte crayon on paper, 1886-87. Robert Lehman Collection, Metropolitan Museum, NY
A small painting which was a study for A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, 1884. Robert Lehman Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
The stillness of Seurat’s paintings undoubtedly was a function of his technique which involved the use of colour to create harmony. And of his temperament: he was said to be very sensitive and also precise with a passion for mathematics. And perhaps of his relative immaturity as an artist: he died at 31 of the same illness which killed his only and infant son not long after he died.
Nevertheless, his legacy is substantial.
Seascape (Gravelines), oil on wood, 1882. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Evening, Honfleur, 1886. Oil on canvas. MOMA, New York. 2016
The French had had, by the time of Seurat’ s work one hundred years to work out in the governance of France the vast, yet still contested, legacy of the French Revolution of 1789 and of the three upsurges of revolutionary activity which followed of which the Commune of Paris of 1871 was the last.
Their civilization was flush with the gains of their colonial empire, still ascendant; and of slavery even if this institution had been abolished. The Dreyfus Affair (1891) had not yet come to blow apart the French elites. The disestablishment of the Roman Catholic Church (1905) was almost a generation away and French patriarchy was still in vigorous, uncontested flush. World War 1 was not even a whisper.
This is the peace and order in which Seurat worked.
Gray weather, Grand Jatte, oil on canvas, 1886-1888, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
Preparatory Sketch for the Painting ‘La Greve du Bas-Butin, Honfleur, 1886, oil on panel. Baltimore Museum of Art
The Ladies’ Man, 1890, oil on panel. The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia
Seascape at Port-en-Bessin, and detail, Normandy, oil on canvas, 1888. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Peasant with a Hoe and detail, 1882, oil on canvas. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Farm Women at Work, 1882-83; oil on canvas. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.
The Mower, 1881-1882,oil on wood. Robert Lehman Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Detail of Peasant Woman Seated On the Grass, 1883, oil on canvas. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY
These paintings of a contented bourgeoisie and of workers at work apparently peaceably, of the calm of an evening and of boats at rest are poignant given the present disquiet of the French Republic trying to find its way in a world in which the hegemony of our current neo-liberal capitalism respects the boundaries of no nation state nor the sensitivities or particularities of any culture.