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Connecting the dots

To the point: Georges Seurat's A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

To the point: Georges Seurat's A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Photo: Wikimedia Commons  

We are familiar with paint-by-number kits. But have you heard of painting using only dots?

Do you like colourful dots? Georges Seurat, a famous painter who lived in Paris, France, certainly did. He invented a technique of painting using only dots known as pointillism (pronounced point-till-ism).

Seurat (pronounced Soor-ra) was born in a rich family on December 2, 1859. He grew up in Paris and studied art at The School of Fine Arts, Paris. Georges had enough money to set up his own studio and experiment with the kind of art he wanted to create. He submitted his painting called Bathers at Asnie`res to be shown in the official French Art exhibition, the Salon. The Salon rejected his painting. So, Seurat got together with some artist friends and formed a group called The Society of Independent Artists. The society held its own exhibition with no selection process and gave no awards. Seurat presented his painting there. This society still exists and holds its exhibition in Paris every spring.

Birth of pointillism

Seurat was interested in the science of light called optics. He studied how colours can look different depending on the other colours around them. For example, blue contrasts most strongly with orange so blue looks brighter when it has orange next to it.

Instead of mixing colours before painting them on the canvas, Seurat wanted the eye to mix the colours. He thought colours would look richer and brighter that way. He made paintings in the form of thousands of dots of paint placed closely together. From a distance, the dots blur to form a single picture. This is how pointillism came to be. In fact, the pixels on modern computer screens work in much the same way!

Seurat must have had a lot of patience to paint this way. His most famous painting called A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte is 6 feet 10 inches tall and 10 feet 1 inch wide. It was painted with small dots of colour. It took Seurat over two years to finish. When the painting was shown to the public, many people called him a genius! Others did not like it because they thought it was too technical and not artistic enough. The painting made Seurat famous. He was considered one of the leading artists in Paris.

In 1891, when he was only 31 years old, Seurat fell ill and died. During his short life, Seurat did seven large size paintings and about 500 smaller ones.

To see Georges Seurat’s paintings, you can visit the website >

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Printable version | Jun 6, 2020 11:18:31 PM |

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