Georges Seurat’s Circus Side Show (Parade de Cirque), 1887-88

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Circus Side Show and details, 1887-88, oil on canvas.  Georges Seurat,1859-1891, French.  Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 

This magnificently staged and elegant painting is a representation of Corvi’s travelling circus.  It was met with a negative reception at the Salon des Independents in 1888 because of its pointillist technique.

The artist never discussed this painting and effaced his signature after the exhibition by adding to the decorative elements at the edge.

The artist died at 31 of illness.

 

 This painting was taken to MOMA’s inaugural show in New York in 1929, later donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and, to my knowledge, has never seen France again. 

   When you look at this artist’s work, there appears to be a light veil over it.  It is as though you were looking at the work through a scrim.  You can see the colours and shade variations and the outline of the shapes very clearly.  But they are at a slight distance.

  And then I think that I am imagining things and that the scrim is nothing more than the time that has passed between the artist’s death and our time

 But it really isn’t that. 

 It is the mystery of this young man. So sure of mind and hand.  So precise, meticulous.  Almost as though unconcerned with the lack of faith of others in his work.  Wiped out by an uncaring act of fate long before he reached his prime. 

To have left us with these sovereign mysteries.   Preserved as if in aspic.  Meticulous, precise, carefully observed and wonderfully executed.

  Between 1886 and 1888, the artist made a number of drawings in connection with this painting.  These were shown in the winter and spring of 2016-2017 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

 

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At the Divan Japonais, 1887-88.  Private collection

 

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High C (Forte Chanteuse), 1887-88; conte crayon and white gouache on paper.  Private collection

 

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At the Gaite Rochechouart. Conte crayon with gouache on paper.  Rhode Island School of Design

 

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At the Concert European.  Conte crayon and gouache on paper.  MOMA, NY

 

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At the Concert Parisien.  Conte crayon and white chalk on paper.  Cleveland Museum of Art

 

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Dancer with a Cane.  Conte crayon on paper.  Private collection

 

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Eden Concert. Conte crayon, gouache, chalk and ink on paper.  Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

 

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Ferdinand Corvi and pony.  Conte crayon on paper.  Private collection

 

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Trombonist.  Conte crayon with white chalk on paper.  Philadelphia Museum of Art

 

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The Tree.  Conte crayon on paper.  Private collection

 

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Two Clowns (Une Parade).  Conte crayon on paper.  Fine Art Museums of San Francisco

 

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Pierrot and Colombine.  Conte crayon on paper.  Kasama Nichido Museum of Art

 

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The Saltimbanque.  Conte crayon on paper. Private collection

 

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