Georges Seurat. An Artists' Artist

Georges Seurat

From the late 19th century to the present day, the drawings of Georges Seurat have enthused an impressive list of artists. Among the first artists to be captivated by this part of his production were Camille Pissarro, Vincent van Gogh, Maximilien Luce, Théo van Rysselberghe, Félix Vallotton, Pierre Bonnard, Édouard Vuillard, and Jacques Lipchitz. Some of them even acquired drawings by the Puntillist artist; this was the case of Henri Matisse, and later of Pablo Picasso. For his part, Paul Signac, moved by his deep friendship and boundless admiration for Seurat, wanted to ensure the posterity of the painter who died prematurely, and in 1899 wrote: “The fruit of Seurat’s studies was his wise and fertile theory of contrast, to which he submitted all his works. First he applied it to chiaroscuro: with these simple resources—the white of a sheet of Ingres paper and the black of a Conté crayon, skillfully graded or contrasted—he executed some four hundred drawings, the most beautiful painter’s drawings in existence. Thanks to their perfect science of values, we can say that these blacks and whites are more colorful and brilliant than many paintings.”

His drawings also proved spellbinding for many avant-garde writers, such as Octave Mirbeau, the author of the suggestive Diary of a Chambermaid; Joris Karl Huysmans, the father of Jean des Esseintes, the hero of À rebours; Paul Valéry, the author of the brilliant and disillusioned character of Monsieur Teste; and the Surrealists André Breton and Paul Eluard.

This recognition has continued down to the present day, and many artists have expressed their fascination for this facet of Seurat’s work, either through statements about his oeuvre or by collecting his drawings. They range from Henry Moore to Ellsworth Kelly, Jasper Johns, Bridget Riley, Daniel Buren, and Richard Serra himself, who admires the French artist’s works on paper.