The Seine at Courbevoie, 1884

Georges Seurat (1859-1891)

  • Oil on Canvas, 15.5 x 24.5 cm
  • Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Above all, Georges Seurat is famous for monumental canvases such as the Bathers at Asnières (1883-84, National Gallery, London) and Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884-86, Art Institute of Chicago). Less well known are the dozens of studies he made over the years on small, wooden panels. These fit perfectly inside the lid of his outdoor painting box and were thus easy to transport. The Seine at Courbevoie is an example of just this kind of study. The view is taken from the island of La Grande Jatte, looking southwest towards the Parisian suburb of Courbevoie. There is a bridge in the background, cut off at the left. The massive forms of large villas arranged against the sky, and in the foreground we see a little figure in a boat, sketched in with only a few brushstrokes.

More information about "The Seine at Courbevoie"

Not just a study

At first glance, this tiny painting (it measures only 15.5 by 24.5 centimeters!) appears to be a spontaneous, impressionistic study of a river bank. On closer examination, however, we can see that the artist has taken great pains to represent his subject. The shimmering evening light and the dancing reflections on the water are reproduced with intensity and precision. The carefully studied color combinations are also remarkable: soft green and gray-blue tones are brought to life through a touch of bright yellow or pink. The warm, orange-brown of the panel, visible underneath the layers of paint, also plays a role in the composition.

Van Gogh and Seurat

It was in 1886 and 1887, the years Van Gogh lived in Paris, that Seurat became a principal figure in the avant-garde. Vincent recognized his importance and, later, referred to Seurat as ‘undoubtedly’ the leader of the ‘Petit Boulevard’ artists, his own name for a new generation of young artists. Some of these painters met in November 1887, and began exhibiting together shortly thereafter. Seurat’s influence on Van Gogh is unmistakable: the latter experimented with the same subjects, painting techniques and color combinations. Although Van Gogh later developed his own style, he continued to admire Seurat. In one of his letters from the south of France he expressed a wish for ‘one of his painted studies.’ This small panel is a welcome addition to the Van Gogh Museum’s collection.

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