Early Inspirations: Georges Seurat

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King Solomon and Sheba

My first formal exposure to Pointillism as a technique was during my early years in art school, more particularly in my art history classes, with instructor Benton Spruance, after he showed picture slides of various works of art to the class at the front of the (old) school’s auditorium.

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George Seurat

What fascinated me about French artist, Georges Seurat’s technique was that the artist would develop his painting by applying small dots of two primary colors to the canvas to create a third color. For example, placing blue dots next to yellow dots would create the illusion of seeing green when viewed from a distance or placing red dots next to yellow dots would create the illusion of seeing orange, and so on.

Seurat was the creator of this technique, which may be seen most clearly in perhaps his most famous painting, “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte,” if one is interested.

Some 10 years later, after moving to Levittown from Philadelphia to start my first teaching position for the Florence Township Schools, I experimented with a Bible story painting using abstract patterns which seemed to lend themselves to the subject of a Queen of Sheba as she knelt before King Solomon. As the painting evolved, I decided to apply the pointillism technique but with linear strokes rather than dots while retaining the power of primary colors, which I felt would lend an air of femininity and flow of movement to the work.

A few years later, I retrieved an unfinished canvas of a young girl holding a mandolin which just didn’t seem to be going anywhere, artistically. I began to play with the colors by redefining them with dots of random colors. I did not use pure primary colors but mixed colors in tints that best suited the subject. It seemed like I worked for weeks developing and redeveloping the girl with color dots next to color dots, as well as the room interior and the street scene below the balcony with the “pointillist” dots of color.

Girl With Mandolin

Having finished my painting (“…and saw that it was good”) I had used a form of the pointillist technique but not Seurat’s guidelines in his formula of juxtaposing pure primary colors. Unfortunately, Seurat died after a short life of only 41 years, but then, who knows how his technique might have evolved had Seurat lived another 30 or 40 years? Perhaps my version might be closer to what he might have done with pointillism during his maturing years.

 

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