Seurat, Bathers at Asnières, 1884
Georges Seurat was a Frenchman. He lived in Paris in the late 19thC. He devoted his life to the understanding of painting methods based on scientific theories. He was influenced by Chevreul the Chemist concerning colour contrasts (lots of c’s) and James Maxwell the Physicist on the nature of light.
These drawings are individual figure studies done from live models using conté crayon of which medium he truly was the undisputed master. These oil sketches were done on site to record the effects of light and atmosphere and determine the composition. They were brought together in his Paris studio to create an impression of what he had seen at the site that day on the banks of the River Seine, using his knowledge and theories on what art could and should be.
Light, atmosphere, composition, contrast and simplicity of form. This was Seurat. Later, he invented a theory called Pointillism. On which he wrote:
Seurat on Aesthetics, August 1890:
Art is Harmony. Harmony is in the analogy of contraries, and in the analogy of similar elements of tone, tint and line, considered according to their dominants and under the influence of light in cheerful, tranquil or melancholy combinations.
Seurat on Technique, August 1890:
Taking for granted the phenomena of the duration of a light-impression on the retina - Synthesis necessarily follows as a result. The means of expression is the optical mixture of the tones, the tints (local colour and that resulting from illumination by the sun, an oil lamp, gas, and so on), that is to say, of lights and their effects (shadows), in accordance with the laws of contrast, gradation and irradiation.
Fellow artist Paul Signac writes of Seurat:
He had surveyed everything and had established, almost definitively, the use of black and white, harmony of line, composition, and the contrast and harmony of colour. What more can one ask of a painter?
Quite right Paul, quite right!