Georges Seurat was born Dec. 2, 1859 in Paris, France to a middle-class family. Seurat went to art school and spent a great deal of time at the famous Louvre Museum. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1878 and 1879. Young Seurat was strongly influenced by Rembrandt and Francisco de Goya.

Seurat made use of the same subjects and bright colors as the Impressionists, but he did not imitate their technique. He was more interested in the formal structure and clear design of his paintings. He spent his life studying color theories scientifically and analytically and the effects of different linear structures. Then he used his finding for artistic purposes. He discovered that one color looks different each time it is placed next to another color.

Seurat developed divisionism, mostly known as pointillism, the technique of placing bright colors on the canvas in small dots. When seen from a distance, the tiny dots of paint seem to merge and suggest other colors. Seurat did his paintings by applying thousands of tiny dots, instead of mixing tints or shades on his palette, our eyes did the work.

Seurat was working on “The Circus” at the time of his death in 1891. He was thirty-one but in his short career he completed seven monumental paintings, sixty smaller ones more than five-hundred drawings. He kept his private life very secret.


THE CIRCUS – Seurat believed that horizontal lines express rest and upward moving lines suggest happiness and motion. Notice the uplifted arms of the moving rider and the horizontal rows that hold the resting spectators. The lines in this painting convey a variety of emotions. 

The artist also believed that warm, bright colors convey a happy, lively mood. The uniform surface of the painting has a grainy appearance that is touched with light and shimmering brightness. 

Seurat carefully planned the position of each person and object in his work. The acrobat is pictured in midair, about to complete a gracefully curving back flip while the girl is balanced exquisitely atop her horse. Unity is achieved by the white areas, which tend to accent and balance the warm glowing colors.

The circus had always fascinated Seurat. He filled a notebook with sketches of his observations at the circus with all kinds of details.


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