1859 - 1891
He rejected the soft, irregular brushstrokes of impressionism in favor of pointillism, a technique he developed whereby solid forms are constructed by applying small, close-packed dots of unmixed color to a white background. Many artists imitated Seurat's method, but, except in the work of Signac, his technique remained unequaled in its perfect blending of colors. Seurat derived many of his theories about painting from his study of contemporary treatises on optics. His scientific bent was also evident in his work habits, which included fixed hours and the meticulous systematization of his technique.
His masterpiece, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884-1886, Art Institute of Chicago), achieves an atmosphere of monumental dignity through the balanced arrangement of its elements and the contours of its figures. Seurat's other large-scale works are The Models (1888, Barnes Foundation Collection, Merion, Pennsylvania), The Side Show (1889, Stephen Clark Collection, New York), The Chahut (1889-1891, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, Netherlands), and The Circus (1890, Louvre, Paris).
With fellow artist Paul Signac he originated the influential theory and practice of neoimpressionism. In 1884 Seurat completed Bathers at Asnières (The National Gallery, London), a scene of boys in the Seine River and the first of six large canvases that would constitute the bulk of his life's work.
His famous canvas Sunday Afternoon on the Island of the Grande Jatte was the centerpiece of an exhibition in 1886. By then Seurat was spending his winters in Paris, drawing and producing one large painting each year, and his summers on France's northern coast. In his short life Seurat produced seven monumental paintings, 60 smaller ones, drawings, and sketchbooks. He kept his private life very secret, and not until his sudden death in Paris on March 29, 1891, did his friends learn of his mistress, who was the model for his painting Young Woman Holding a Powder Puff (1890, Courtauld Institute of Art, London).
Sources: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1994 and Encarta 1999.
In 1889 Seurat began to live with a young model by the name of Madeleine Knobloch. This liaison was kept secret for fear of family disapproval. When Madeleine became pregnant and bore a son, christened Pierre Ceorges, Seurat became even more secretive and withdrawn, living virtually as a recluse and emerging only to take part in exhibitions. The birth of the child was kept even from Seurat's mother, who would have been deeply shocked that her brilliant, rich and handsome son had fallen for the charms of a lowly model.
Early in 1891, Madeleine was again pregnant but before the birth of the second child, a completely unexpected tragedy occurred. On Palm Sunday Seurat felt in the peak of health and was preparing work for exhibition, but by Thursday he had fallen very ill. In desperation he arrived at his mother's house with the pregnant Madeleine and the infant Pierre Georges. By the morning of Easter Sunday Seurat was dead of diphtheria.
Source: Impressionist Painters; Guy Jennings; Chancellor Press