GEORGES SEURAT (1859-1891)
GEORGES SEURAT (1859-1891)
GEORGES SEURAT (1859-1891)
1 More
GEORGES SEURAT (1859-1891)
4 More
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more Visionary: The Paul G. Allen Collection
GEORGES SEURAT (1859-1891)

En marche

GEORGES SEURAT (1859-1891)
En marche
stamped with signature 'Seurat' (Lugt 2282a; lower right)
black Conté crayon on paper laid down on paper
12 1/2 x 9 5/8 in. (31.8 x 24.4 cm.)
Drawn circa 1882
Estate of the artist.
Félix Fénéon, Paris.
Charles Saunier, Paris (acquired from the above, by 1908).
André Valladier, Paris.
Jacques Dupont, Paris (by 1954).
Private collection, Europe (by descent from the above); sale, Christie’s, London, 9 December 1997, lot 3.
Simon C. Dickinson, Ltd., London.
Acquired from the above by the late owner, 2007.
L. Cousturier, Georges Seurat, Paris, 1926, p. 49 (dated circa 1883-1883).
C. Roger-Marx, Seurat, Paris, 1931, no. 27 (illustrated).
A. Lhote, Seurat, Paris, 1948 (illustrated, pl. 3).
C.M. de Hauke, Seurat et son oeuvre, Paris, 1961, p. 94, no. 489 (illustrated, p. 95).
Paris, La Revue Blanche, Georges Seurat, March-April 1900, no. 51.
Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., Rétrospective Georges Seurat, December 1908-January 1909, no. 127.
Paris, Musée Carnavalet, Chef d'œuvres des collections Parisiennes école française du XIX siècle, December 1952-February 1953, p. 45, no. 188 (titled L'homme qui marche).
Paris, Musée national d'art moderne, Le dessin de Toulouse-Lautrec aux Cubistes, 1954, p. 37, no. 190.
Paris, Musée Jacquemart-André, Seurat, November-December 1957, no. 40.
Seattle, Pivot Art + Culture, A Closer Look: Portraits from the Paul G. Allen Family Collection, December 2016-March 2017.
Special notice
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.

Brought to you by

Max Carter
Max Carter Vice Chairman, 20th and 21st Century Art, Americas

Lot Essay

Executed in an incredible range of contrasting tones, En marche dates from a key period of Georges Seurat’s early career during which he consolidated his revolutionary ideas on color, light and optics. While drawing had been an integral aspect of the artist’s creative practice since his youth, by mid-1881 the artist had completely rejected the conventional technique of contour line drawing he had been taught at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Instead, he rendered his subjects by means of densely hatched, contrasting masses of light and shade, running the hard tip of a jet black Conté crayon across the finely textured surface of high-grade, hand-made Michallet paper to achieve different levels of density. This kind of Ingres paper was thick and textured; the grooves of the mold in which it was made remained visible on the surface, lending the sheets a distinctive patterning. Tailoring his application of the Conté crayon to amplify and exploit this textured finish, Seurat developed an acutely sensitive touch which allowed him to control the layering of trace-marks on the sheet, generating tonal gradations ranging from the blackest darkness to pale but glowing surfaces of light.
Described by his friend Gustave Kahn as “the young man mad about drawing,” Seurat was known to sketch incessantly, quickly filling the pocket-sized carnets he carried with him everywhere he went, capturing quick studies of figures in the casual, naturalistic situations in which he encountered them (Seurat Drawings, Paris, 1928; New York, repr. 1971, p. v). In his studio, he built on these rapid drawings, creating magnificent compositions on large sheets of paper, richer in their materiality and more focused on the dramatic relationship between darkness and light. Eschewing subjects drawn from antiquity, mythology, history or religion in his work, Seurat focused instead on contemporary scenes in which ordinary citizens went about their daily lives, producing an array of exquisitely rendered figure studies that explored different character types. From laborers in the fields, to street vendors and laundresses, nurses with young children in tow, and middle-class promenaders as they wandered through the city, these works powerfully illustrate Seurat’s sophisticated observational skills and his innate ability to capture the essential tenets of a subject’s identity through small gestures, posture, and the details of their attire.
In En marche, Seurat focuses on the lone figure of an elderly man as he wanders past, a long walking stick aiding his progress. There is an almost sculptural solidity to the figure, his broad shoulders and long arms captured in an array of multi-directional strokes that emphasize his size. Most notably, the scene allows Seurat the opportunity to study in-depth the nuances of the body as it responds to movement, the bend of the man’s knees and the way his upper body tilts slightly forwards lending a subtle sense of energy and motion to the figure, creating the impression that he has been caught mid-stride, as he is about to lean his weight on the stick and take another step forwards. The surrounding environment is reduced to a loose sense of light and air, with the sharp horizontal strokes of Conté crayon that indicate the pavement and the walls of a building behind, offering only the subtlest hint to the streetscape in which the figure finds himself.
As is typical of Seurat’s drawings, the outline of the figure in En marche is not sharply defined but rather indicated by contrasting areas of light and dark alone, the contours of his form slowly merging with the surrounding shadows. The artist’s Neo-Impressionist colleague, Henri-Edmond Cross, recalled a conversation between Seurat and the artist Charles Angrand, in which Seurat explained that his vision allowed him to perceive tone before line, and that he never considered beginning a composition with a single stroke (“Inédits d’Henri-Edmond Cross, V,” Bulletin de la vie artistique, 15 September 1922). Here, Seurat achieves an incredible array of hues within the limited palette of the Conté crayon, ranging from soft, pale grey to deepest, velvety black, using the dense chiaroscuro to emphasize the volume and solidity of the figure.
En marche remained in the artist’s personal collection until his untimely death at the age of 31, at which point it was acquired by Félix Fénéon, the passionate promoter of Neo-Impressionism and one of Seurat’s greatest supporters. Referring to himself as a trait d’union, or “hyphen,” between the artists he championed and the general public, Fénéon had a profound impact on the development and reception of the avant-garde during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, through his varied roles as an art critic, curator, writer, editor, publisher, dealer and gallerist. He was among the first observers to recognize the potential of the bold new aesthetic proposed by pointillism, and in September 1886 he coined the term néo-impressionnisme to refer to the art of Seurat, Signac and their circle. In the aftermath of Seurat’s death, Fénéon made it his mission to promote and preserve the artist’s work. Over the course of the following three decades he set about organizing numerous exhibitions of Seurat’s work, assisting in the placement of various compositions in important museum collections, and allowing his own meticulous documentation and research to act as the basis for the earliest catalogue raisonnés of Seurat’s oeuvre.

More from Visionary: The Paul G. Allen Collection Part II

View All
View All