Georges Seurat (1859-1891)
Property from a Private Swiss Collector
Georges Seurat (1859-1891)

Le Liseur

Georges Seurat (1859-1891)
Le Liseur
black Conté crayon on paper laid down on board
12 1/8 x 8 5/8 in. (31 x 21.9 cm.)
Drawn circa 1881
Paul Signac, Paris.
Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., Paris.
Galerie de l'Elysée, Paris.
M. Renauld, Paris (by 1942).
Private collection, Switzerland.
By descent from the above to the present owner, circa 1958.
C.M. de Hauke, Seurat et son oeuvre, Paris, 1961, vol. II, p. 74, no. 458 (illustrated, p. 75).
Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., Rétrospective Georges Seurat, December 1908-January 1909, no. 162.
Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., Les dessins de Seurat, November-December 1926, no. 51.
Paris, Galerie de France, Le Néo-Impressionnisme, December 1942-January 1943, no. 15.
Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, Georges Seurat Zeichnungen, January-March 1984, no. 22.

Lot Essay

Drawn circa 1881, Le Liseur is from a period of Seurat's oeuvre often referred to as his "early maturity." It was during the first years of the 1880s that the simple and reductive line drawings that had formed the bulk of his works went through a sudden transformation, evolving almost spontaneously into what is still considered some of the most formidable draughtsmanship ever. Influenced by various artists, as well as by theories on light and color, Seurat had invented a visual idiom that tackled the issue of how to most effectively capture light on paper. Paul Signac would later refer to his friend Seurat's advances in this area:

Seurat's studies resulted in his well-considered and fertile theory of contrasts: a theory to which all his work was thereafter subjected. He applied it first to chiaroscuro: with the simplest of resources, the white of a sheet of Ingres paper and the black of a Conté crayon, skilfully graded or contrasted, he executed... the most beautiful painters' drawings in existence (quoted in J. Russell, Seurat, London, 1965, p. 16).

This study of contrasts is especially clear in Le Liseur, where Seurat has expressly manipulated the dense chiaroscuro in such a way as to emphasize the volume and bulk of the figure.

Robert L. Herbert confirms Seurat's mastery of drawing during this time period,

In just a little over a year after his return to Paris in November 1880, Seurat developed the distinctive drawing style which has placed him among the greatest masters of black and white. By 1882 he fully realised the rich, velvety drawings in Conté crayon which are so superb in every sense that they are a serious challenge to the pre-eminence of his painting. To many, as he was only in his early twenties at that period, the rapidity of his maturity was astonishing. In spite of his precocious competence, no drawing before 1881 can begin to compare with the quality of his first mature work (in Seurat's Drawings, London, 1965, pp. 35-36).

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