The Last Works

IN the spring of 1889 Seurat left Paris for Le Crotoy, to paint some of those seascapes which prompted his friend Charles Angrand to say in a letter to Cross, "He is the first to render the feeling which the sea inspires on a calm day." The year before Seurat had brought back from his sojourn at Port-en-Bessin several of those views of the sea which poets found poetical, which painters admired for their unexampled mastery and in which even hostile critics saw a serene and moving beauty.

Seurat explaned to Emile Verhaeren that landscapes were his summer's work, undertaken regularly each year at the seashore or just outside Paris, while each winter he completed a large canvas, one representing much research and possibly some discoveries. Verhaeren wanted to call these winter paintings canvases with a thesis, but Seurat disapproved and simply reiterated that during the summer his objective was "to wash the studio light from his eyes and to transcribe more exactly the vivid outdoor clarity in all its nuance."136

In the autumn of 1889, Seurat sent the landscapes done at Port-en-Bessin and Le Crotoy to the exhibition of the Indépendants,137 and Camille Pissarro, in a letter to his son, Lucien, wrote:

At first view the neo-impressionists appeared to me to be barren, mean, colorless, particularly Seurat and Signac. But after a while I regarded them more favorably, although there is something stilted in their work which I feel is disagreeable. 138

The accusation "stilted" was often hurled at Seurat's large compositions and particularly at his Jeune femme se poudrant which the artist began in 1889. This is a painting -- not until the artist's death was this known to his most intimate friends -- of Seurat's mistress, Madeleine Knobloch. The picture presents a robust young woman of southern beauty preparing her make-up at an old-fashioned dressing table. Her gesture and bearing have that strange solemnity which is so often found in the works of Seurat. The severe lines of her chemise emphasize the contrast between the dark corset and the clear

-69-

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Georges Seurat
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Table of Contents ix
  • List of Illustrations xi
  • Introduction xvii
  • The Beginning 1
  • Salon Des Indéependants 13
  • A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte 19
  • The Eighth Exhibition of the Impressionists 27
  • Félix Fénéon and the Neo-Impressionists 33
  • New Exhibitions: New York, Paris, Brussels 37
  • Seurat and His Friends 43
  • Seurat's Theories 57
  • Praise and Dispraise 63
  • The Last Works 69
  • Notes 75
  • Bibliography 119
  • Index 124
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