GEORGES SEURAT (1859-1891)
GEORGES SEURAT (1859-1891)
GEORGES SEURAT (1859-1891)
GEORGES SEURAT (1859-1891)
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PROPERTY FROM A PROMINENT PRIVATE COLLECTION
GEORGES SEURAT (1859-1891)

Paysage, homme assis (Etude pour Un dimanche après-midi à l'Ile de la Grande Jatte)

Details
GEORGES SEURAT (1859-1891)
Paysage, homme assis (Etude pour Un dimanche après-midi à l'Ile de la Grande Jatte)
oil on panel
6 1⁄4 x 9 5⁄8 in. (15.7 x 24.5 cm.)
Painted in 1884-1885
Provenance
Estate of the artist.
Léon Appert, Paris.
Paul Levasseur, Paris.
Mme Fernand Canu, Paris (before 1961).
Anon. sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 15 April 1988, lot 52.
André Bromberg, Paris (acquired at the above sale); sale, Christie's, New York, 3 November 2010, lot 9.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owners.
Literature
H. Dorra and J. Rewald, Seurat: L'oeuvre peint, biographie et catalogue critique, Paris, 1959, p. 118, no. 111 (illustrated; titled Berge, étude pour "La Grande-Jatte").
C.M. de Hauke, Seurat et son oeuvre, Paris, 1961, vol. I, p. 68, no. 111 (illustrated, p. 69).
A. Chastel and F. Minervino, L'opera completa di Seurat, Milan, 1972, p. 99, no. 114 (illustrated; titled Figura seduta in riva alla senna).
A. Madeleine-Perdrillant, Seurat, Geneva, 1990, p. 200 (illustrated).
A. Blaugrund, ed., Charting New Waters: Redefining Marine Painting, Winona, 2013, pp. 85 and 113, figure 33 (illustrated in color, p. 84).
Exhibited
Paris, 23 Boulevard des Italiens, Exposition de la Revue Blanche, Georges Seurat: Oeuvres peintes et dessinées, March-April 1900, no. 12 (titled Etude).
The Art Institute of Chicago, Seurat and the Making of "La Grande Jatte", June-September 2004, pp. 73, 264 and 274, no. 42 (illustrated in color, pp. 73 and 266).
Winona, Minnesota Marine Art Museum (on extended loan, 2010-2022).
Sale room notice
Please note that this work has been requested by the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Padova e Rovigo, Padua, for its exhibition L'occhio in gioco, which will be shown 24 September 2022-26 February 2023.

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Lot Essay

When Georges Seurat’s monumental painting Un dimanche après-midi à l’Ile de la Grande Jatte made its debut at the eighth, and final, Impressionist Exhibition in May 1886, it caused a sensation. Standing at over six feet tall and ten feet long, the complex and enigmatic composition featured almost fifty individual characters, a collection of animals, and eight boats traversing the Seine, each rendered in a myriad of precise, carefully placed, colorful dots. It was clear to contemporary viewers that while its size and painstaking process contained echoes of a classical artistic tradition, its focus on contemporary Parisian figures at leisure as well as the startling effect of its pointillist technique hailed the work as a bold new masterpiece of modern art. Painted in 1884-1885, Paysage, homme assis (Etude pour Un Dimanche après-midi à l’Île de la Grande Jatte) is a luminous example from the series of preliminary studies that Seurat completed while working on his magnum opus, its bold vibrancy eloquently capturing the spontaneity and energy that underpinned his meticulous, visionary aesthetic.
As the artist himself explained in a letter to the critic Félix Fénéon dated 20 June 1890, he completed his first studies at the same time that he began painting the monumental composition, and over the following year and a half would move back and forth between drawings, outdoor sketches, and preparatory canvases in his studio, gradually changing and altering the final composition as his ideas developed. Studying the framing of the scene, the placement of the figures in various groupings and positions within the landscape and the play of the dappled summer sunlight through the trees, Seurat produced over sixty individual studies in preparation for the final composition, including twenty-eight small, oil on board paintings, like the present work, many of which are now held in prestigious museum collections around the world. Working en plein air, these studies would prove a crucial site of experimentation for the artist, each one offering an insight in to the evolution of his thoughts and the development of his groundbreaking theories as he progressed through the various stages of the composition.
Discussing his working methods with the critic Gustave Coquiot, Seurat explained that he used to spend entire days at the Grande Jatte working on these preparatory sketches, using small wooden boards that he liked to call croquetons for his oil studies: “Sometimes, he stayed all day long at the Grande Jatte when the weather was nice. He didn’t give a lot of importance to his lunch and then he liked to go back to Paris with a lot of these small painted panels…” (quoted in A. Michel, Seurat, Paris, 1924, p. 72). Made popular by the Impressionist painters, these small wood panels were commercially available to artists for use with portable painting kits, and could be slid inside the cover of the boxed kit for easy transportation, even when still wet with fresh paint.
According to Robert L. Herbert, writing in the catalogue for the exhibition Seurat and the Making of la Grande Jatte organized by The Art Institute of Chicago in 2004, Paysage, homme assis was not one of the early studies for the painting, but was probably made in parallel to the final composition, to assist the artist in defining the landscape. These later panels shared the compositional structure of the final painting, as well as the fall of shadows and light across the scene. At the same time, Seurat used a more luminous color palette in their creation and played with the positioning of the figures, varying their numbers and placing them in different areas of the park, as if directing them on a stage. In the present panel, Seurat adopts a focused view of the upper left bank of the island as it meets the water, training his eye on a lone, single figure sitting on the grass, staring out meditatively onto the Seine. Perhaps serendipitously encountered by the artist on one of his trips to the Grande Jatte and quickly added to what was originally a study of the landscape alone, his relaxed posture is captured in a handful of quick, summary brushstrokes.
Unlike many of the croquetons from this period of the painting’s evolution, Paysage, homme assis displays a bold handling of paint, its overlapping and interweaving brushstrokes appearing larger and more frenzied as they dance across the panel than other examples from the series. The entire surface is covered in a mixture of horizontal, vertical and diagonal brushwork, from the balayé (criss-cross; literally, swept) strokes used to render the lush grass in the foreground, to the clear horizontal dabs of the water that suggest the movement of the river, and the fluid, meandering streams of pigment that describe the trees. Lending the composition a sensation of immediacy and spontaneity, this dynamic surface pattern reinforces the impression that Seurat painted this work rapidly, en plein air, each stroke of green, yellow, blue, mauve and dusty pink filled with the intense energy of the artist’s hand as he recorded the scene before him.

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