Vaches dans un pré was painted around 1883 and is one of Georges Seurat's so-called croquetons, pictures created on wooden panels that he could carry through the countryside, working from life. Sometimes erroneously described as cigar box lids, the panels Seurat used were usually made of walnut or mahogany, rather than cedar wood. Seurat would often not prime his panels, allowing the rich colour of the wood to add its own warm ground to the compositions. It was in these croquetons that Seurat developed the visual language that would lead to his celebrated masterpiece, Une baignade, Asnières, now in the National Gallery, London, in which he would move gradually towards a new concept of painting based on colour theories. The Neo-Impressionism that Seurat came to spearhead would have a marked effect on colour theories for a number of artists, bringing about new understandings and confidence in the avant-garde, and resulting in the embrace of Pointillism and thence Divisionism.
In his croquetons, Seurat explored the entire nature of the relationship between colour and form, using his studies of the ever-advancing science of perception to help inform him. Seurat managed to capture light, colour and form alike through brushstrokes that are almost hatched, lending a shimmering, almost impressionistic air to the composition. Works such as Vaches dans un pré, were the cutting edge arenas of experimentation that would result in various sea-changes in the development of the avant-garde. Looking at Seurat's all-too-short career, brutally interrupted by his death in his early thirties, it is astonishing to see the advances that he made in the brief period of his so-called maturity.