Posts Tagged ‘Georges Seurat’

Thought I’d take it easy this morning and just share a song, as I do every Sunday morning. The painting here is a favorite of mine, Le Cirque from Georges Seurat, which is I believe is considered to be the last painting from the great French Pointillist.

I am not a big fan of circuses now but as child I had a slight fascination with them. I have distinct memories of watching lion tamers, acrobats and high wire walkers on a television show that used to be on Friday nights in the early and mid 1960’s. It was called International Showtime hosted by Don Ameche, featuring filmed performances from European circuses. I think my interest in the circus was mine alone in my family because I seem to remember watching this show alone.

It’s one of those things I moved past. I began to have a great dislike for animals (or children, for that matter) in cages and gained an understanding of the hardships and tragedies of the lives of many of the circus people. The glossy fascination of childhood dulled and the clowns that once made me smile now make me slightly sad.

But I still like this song very much. It has wonderful imagery that rekindles the lure of the circus a bit though it points out the seedier aspects that I didn’t notice as a 6 year old but which ultimately made the circus less appealing. This is a live performance of Wild Billy’s Circus Story from Bruce Springsteen from way back in 1973.


Have a good Sunday.

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The anarchist painter is not the one who will create anarchist pictures, but the one who will fight with all his individuality against official conventions.

–Paul Signac
Really eager this morning to get at a painting that is on the easel. It’s at a point where it is making that final transformation that seems to make it come alive and I am excited to see the final result for this piece. But before I do that I wanted to show a few paintings from the French painter Paul Signac (1863-1935) who, along with Georges Seurat, developed Pointillism and was one of its best known proponents.
I have admired Signac’s work since I came across it many years ago. Maybe it is in the clarity of his colors that give his works a sense of being in the present. For example, note the vivid color in the painting at the top, Portrait of Felix Feneon.  While it was painted in 1890, it feels like it could be from any point in the next 125 years.
Another favorite is shown directly below. It is titled In the Time of Harmony. The Golden Age is not in the Past, it is in the Future and was painted 1893-95. It is a massive piece, nearly 10′ by 14′. I think it is a brilliant painting.
Here are a few more pieces from Signac that have always struck me. I am not going into his biography– like I said, I have a painting to get at– but I do recommend you take a further look. You can go to his Wikipedia page by clicking here.

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Consistency, Again

Sometimes when I speak to schoolkids, they show me their work. There is an interesting mix of pride and embarrassment in these kids which sometimes has them telling me that they don’t think their drawings or paintings are very good. I know that feeling well. I was those kids once, with an aim that far exceeded my ability at that point. A friend sent me an image from a 6th grade newsletter that had a drawing of mine from that time in it that had me gasping at how poorly I drew at that time. I think it was supposed to be Dr. J dunking a basketball but who could tell? 

It was cringeworthy but it helped me in being able to tell these kids that where they are now is now where they will end up so long as they continue to practice and take small steps forward. You can’t judge a journey by the first steps on the path.

I thought I would share this post from about four years back that deals with this idea of development and growth. Plus, it’s just a great way to share some good work from Georges Seurat.

George Seurat -Paysage Avec ChevalI subscribe to a service that provides information such as auction results for artists, both living and dead. It is always interesting to scan the auction results for my favorite artists, to see how they are currently viewed by buyers. For example, anything by Vincent Van Gogh always draws huge money, even the work that doesn’t possess the signature brushwork and color of his better known works. Those pieces that do, go for astronomical sums. His popularity with the public is as strong as ever. I guess that is no surprise.

A_Sunday_on_La_Grande_Jatte,_Georges_Seurat,_1884.It’s also interesting to scan the results to see work from artists other than their more famous paintings that hang in museums.  We tend to think of artists by their best work and seldom see the complete chain of work that runs through their career, never really seeing their weak links or  the developmental work that led to their signature style or voice.

The image at the top, Paysage Avec Cheval,  a painting that recently went up for auction at Christie’s London, is a good example of this. It’s a lovely piece but you might not guess the artist.  This is from George Seurat whose work, such as his most famous work shown just above, is forever tied to pointillism. But scanning through his records, you can get a better sense of the evolution of his work. [ Note: This painting, small at about 6″ x 9″in size, sold in 2014 for over $1.8 million]

I am also looking for consistency in the artists whose work I am scanning through. Again, we always think of the artists in terms of their best known works and are often unaware of the totality of their body of work. Some artists are incredibly consistent, even in their early formative years. Others have high peaks and deep valleys, with a huge disparity between their best and not-so-best work. I am always encouraged by both types of artists.

I strive for consistency in my own work but have had dips and valleys in my work, particularly in the formative days early on. In those days, I thought of the great artists only in terms of their best  works that hung in the great museums of the world, thinking that they simply got up each day and turned out incredible work. I could not fathom the possibility that they had swings and misses. It’s encouraging to see that those icons whose work I revere often struggled in the same way as me and that the great works we know them for were not created in a vacuum. They came with great effort and day after day of moving ahead in often small increments.

I think any aspiring artist should take a few minutes to look through the whole of the works of their heroes. They might be encouraged, as I often have been, to know that the path they are on is not so much different.

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Really busy this morning as I try to wrap up everything for my Truth and Belief show that opens June 2 at the Principle Gallery. As it always is at this point, a week from delivering the show, there is still a lot to do including what seems like a million little, nit-picky details, those small touches that I find make a big difference.

So this morning I am just throwing out a lovely short video of the paintings of pointillist painter Georges Seurat set to the music of Vivaldi.  Both always strike me as rock solid so I figure that you can’t go wrong either way. It’s a good and relaxing way to kick off an overly active Saturday.

So take just a few minutes and relax in the relaxing colors of Seurat and music of Vivaldi.

Have a great day.

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On my way to deliver some new work to the Kada Gallery in Erie, I was driving across the empty part of western New York yesterday, a couple of hundred miles of very sparse traffic which leaves you lots of time to let thoughts just randomly weave in and out of your mind.  It’s funny, the things that settle at these times.  People you haven’t thought of for many years.  Things that you haven’t done since you were a kid.  Sometimes people and things that have little meaning for you.  Plans and things you want to do in the future.

Yesterday, I was thinking about the circus for some unknown reason.  Maybe it was a thought of one of the circus paintings from Pablo Picasso. like the one shown here, or the ones from Seurat that I wrote about here in the past.  There’s something very visually interesting in the circus, with it’s costuming and showmanship.

But more than that it made me think of how I have viewed the circus over the years.  Growing up, the circus and circus style acts were big staple of television in the early 60’s and, I’m sure, the 50’s.  Aerialists, jugglers, clowns of every shape and size, lion tamers and a variety of other animal acts were often part of many variety shows.  I can’t quite remember all the details, but there was even a show that was devoted to circus acts. 

 As a kid, I was enthralled by these acts and performers.  Even my first date with my wife involved going to a circus that was appearing in our local minor league ballpark.  It was one of those things that was sort of engrained in my young psyche.  But over time, the gloss faded from the illusion of the circus for me.  I no longer found the idea of performing animals charming in any way.  In fact,  it bothered me deeply.  It also  became apparent that the  lives of many of the human performers were not easy either.  Their moments in the spotlight in their shiny outfits were short and masked the hours spent in second rate motels and restaurant while crisscrossing the  backroads of this country. 

The illusion was gone for me.

But  still, the idea and ideal of the circus in the mind brings forth strong imagery.  The tension of a daring performance and the anticipation of the crowd.  The aura of the spotlight and how all eyes were focused hard on whatever was going on in that center ring.  It was a great illusion and was part of my childhood memories. 

That was part of my drive yesterday.  Don’t know exactly why.  Maybe someting will appear in my own work.  We’ll see.

Here’s one of my favorite Bruce Springsteen songs, one that fits this post to a tee.  It’s a 1973 performance of his image filled Wild Billy’s Circus Story

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When most people think of paintings by Georges Seurat, the French pointillist painter, they probably think first of his famous painting,Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte which is probably remembered by many as Sunday In the Park With George , from the Stephen Sondheim play which revolves around the Seurat painting.  For me, the Seurat paintings that spring to mind are a couple of his pieces that revolve around the circus, such as the one at the top of this post, Circus Sideshow.

For me, this painting just has magical, mysterious  feel.  I can imagine the tinny sound of the musicians, a kind Kurt Weill/Threepenny Opera  quiet cacophony.  The composition of this piece also reads very easily into my brain and I find myself excited by it to the point of envisioning work of my own that will borrow from  the light and dark blocking of the piece, the way the figures are between dark borders formed by the patterned edge at the top and  the shadowy people at the bottom.

While I can appreciate many paintings just for what they are and their own sheer beauty, it’s the paintings that spark something in myself, that inspire something in my own work from some connection in that painting that jumps out at me, that are usually my favorites. These Seurat circus paintings do that for me.  While I find many of Seurat’s other paintings pleasant enough and lovely to see, they don’t fire my imagination in the same way.

Maybe it’s the subject matter.  Maybe it’s the angular edges in these compositions compared to the softer , rounder edges of  the Park painting, for instance.  Maybe it something as simple of the colors of these pieces.  I don’t know.  I just know they make me want to get something down on paper or canvas quick before the inspiration fades.

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