After encountering the work of the Impressionists, Georges Seurat shifted away from the foundations of his academic training and began studying color theory, eventually becoming a leading proponent of Neo-Impressionism. Members of the group sought to apply the theory of mélange optique (optical mixture) to their art. Rather than mixing the pigment to a desired tone before applying it to the canvas, these artists relied on viewers’ eyes to combine adjacent colors as part of their experience of the paintings.
Building on this theory, Seurat developed a technique called Pointillism, in which small dots of unmixed pigment blend together only when viewed from a distance. This intimate painting is one of seventy small preparatory studies the artist made for his first monumental work of art using this new methodology—A Sunday on La Grande Jatte—1884. Over the course of six months, Seurat visited this Parisian island daily to sketch and observe. In contrast to the systematic marks applied to the finished tableau, such studies feature shorter, more varied brushstrokes. The color palette, however, remains consistently vivid throughout all the preparatory works and the final version.
Label from Humble and Human: An Exhibition in Honor of Ralph C. Wilson, Jr., February 2–May 26, 2019