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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
Email: [email protected] / Phone: +44 7429 011000

Sadly, due to how Georges Seurat's lifetime was cut short so early, we do not have a great abundance of quotes from him available to us. Much of what we have subsequently learnt about him was found in his written correspondence with friends and family.

The direct quotes that we have been able to attribute to Seurat often have a deep-thinking nature to them, and we do know that this was an artist who became heavily involved in the theory of art. He was particularly interested in understanding colour as well as possible and realised that was a key foundation to all of his work. He would also explain in some of his words about how emotion was key to the style of his paintings, and that he wanted to impress his feelings upon the viewer of each and every artwork that he produced. This is in keeping with the Impressionist movement, of which he took some ideas but then extended things with some technical innovations that became known as the Pointilist movement.

Seurat was well known to a number within the Impressionist movement. Many of the opinions that we have found on him was from correspondence between its various members. Pissarro was particularly outspoken in his views on Seurat and to find written evidence of it has helped academics to be more confident in the conclusions that they have drawn. For many years it was these two figures who were seen as the future of art after the achievements of the Impressionists and they therefore must have felt at least some sort of bond. The Impressionists were a collective of artists who did not always seen eye-to-eye, and so many also lied on the fringes of the group, leading to a fairly fluid exchange of ideas and the sharing of friendships. Cezanne, for example, would exhibit several times with them, but never truly felt completely a part of the group, in an artistic sense. He also developed a close friendship with Pissarro who was a particularly patient and understanding friend.

In the case of most artists, the attributable quotes from this career only arrive once they have become established artists, simply because of the fact that before that there is literally no focus on the lives whatsoever. Unfortunately for Seurat, his time at the top was incredibly short, because his life was cut short. This immediately explains why there are only a few direct comments from his lifetime, as compared to other famous artists of the time, as well as why, perhaps, his oeuvre has not been quite as well respected as some of those who were around within French art at the same time, such as Degas, Renoir, Monet and also Manet. One can argue that he was just as talented and innovative as most of them, and although the highlights of his career (A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte and Bathers at Asnières) are iconic artworks, few know many more of his artworks than those two. His drawings were also sublime and knowledge of them is even more limited within artistic circles.

Famous Quotes by Georges Seurat

Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.

Harmony is the analogy of contrary and similar elements of tone, of color, and of line, conditioned by the dominant key, and under the influence of a particular light, in gay, calm, or sad combinations.

I painted like that because I wanted to get through to something new - a kind of painting that was my own.

Let's go and get drunk on light again – it has the power to console.

Originality depends on the character of the drawing and the vision peculiar to each artist.

Painting is the art of hollowing a surface.

Some say they see Poetry in my paintings; I see only science.

They see poetry in what I have done. No. I apply my methods, and that is all there is to it.

Signac, definitively won over and who had just modified the paintings The Milliner, and Appreteuse et garnisseuse Modes, Rue de Caire, following my technique at the same time as I was finishing the Jatte.. .You'll agree that there's a nuance here and that if I was unknown in 1885 Félix Fénéon did not mention Seurat in his article as leader / initiator of Neo-Impressionism / Neo-Impressionism I nonetheless existed, I and my vision that you have described in an impersonal fashion so superbly, aside from one or two insignificant details.

Signac told me of his death this way: 'He [Vincent van Gogh] gave himself a bullet in the ribs; it passed through his body and lodged in his groin. He walked for two kilometers, losing all his blood, and went on to die in his inn'.

Quotes about Georges Seurat by Fellow Artists and Art Historians

Seurat was fascinated by a range of scientific ideas about color, form and expression. He believed that lines tending in certain directions, and colors of a particular warmth or coolness, could have particular expressive effects. He also pursued the discovery that contrasting or complementary colors can optically mix to yield far more vivid tones that can be achieved by mixing paint alone. He called the technique he developed 'chromo-luminism', though it is better known as Divisionism (after the method of separating local color into separate dots), or Pointillism (after the tiny strokes of paint that were crucial to achieve the flickering effects of his surfaces).

Seurat is considered one of the most important Post-Impressionist painters. He moved away from the apparent spontaneity and rapidity of Impressionism and developed a structured, more monumental art to depict modern urban life. Bathers at Asnières is an important transitional work. It shows him developing the application of his novel pointillist technique to a large work on the scale of History painting.

The National Gallery, London

He is best known for devising the painting techniques known as chromoluminarism as well as pointillism. While less famous than his paintings, his conté crayon drawings have also garnered a great deal of critical appreciation. Seurat's artistic personality combined qualities that are usually supposed to be opposed and incompatible: on the one hand, his extreme and delicate sensibility, on the other, a passion for logical abstraction and an almost mathematical precision of mind.


Yesterday I had a violent run-in with Monsieur Eugene Manet [brother of Édouard Manet and married with Berthe Morisot ] on the subject of Seurat and Paul Signac.. .I beg you to believe me when I say that I rated Manet roundly.. .. I explained to Monsieur Manet, who probably didn't understand anything I said, that Seurat had something new to contribute.. ..that I was personally convinced of the progressiveness of his art, which would yield, at a given moment, extraordinary results.. .We shall see. Monsieur Manet would also have liked to prevent Seurat from showing his figure painting. I protested against this, telling Manet that in that case we would make no concessions, that we were ready, if space were lacking, to limit our paintings ourselves [at the coming eight Impressionist exhibition in Paris], but that we [the Neo-Impressionists] would fight against anyone who sought to impose his choice on us. Things will arrange themselves somehow, parbleu!

Camille Pissarro

Degas is a hundred times more loyal [than other impressionist artists, then]. - I told Degas that Seurat's painting was very interesting. [Degas:] 'I would have noted that myself, Pissarro, except that the painting is so big!' Very well - if Degas sees nothing in it so much the worse for him. This simply means there is something precious that escapes him. We shall see.

Camille Pissarro

The impressionist paintings of Manet, Cezanne and Monsieur Degas, express with exemplary sincerity the new sensations, the new world our eyes experience. Now here the successors to these artists [Seurat & Pissarro ] are trying to perfect the forms created by them. They found in the notes of Delacroix, in the scientific discoveries of Chevreul and Rood, the suggestion for a type of painting in which color impressions are ordered by the combining of little multi-colored brush strokes. But while they were attentive to such improvement of the means, they forgot the true end of art, the sincere and complete expression of vivid sensations. The works of these painters - Pissarro and Seurat are the most notorious - are interesting only as the exercises of highly mannered virtuosos. Their paintings are lifeless for the painters did not strive for sincerity, being too taken up with external formulas.

Teodor de Wyzewa

Terrible news to report: Seurat died after a very brief illness. I heard the cruel news only this morning. He had been in bed for three days with a disturbance of the throat. Improperly treated, the illness developed with ruinous speed. It is my impression that the malady was the very one de Bellio told me about some time ago: diphtheria. The funeral takes place tomorrow. You can conceive the grief of all those who followed him or were interested in his artistic researches. It is a great loss for art.. .There is a splendid exhibition of that unfortunate Seurat [at the exhibition of the Independants, March 1891]; some marines, as delicate as ever, somewhat white and weak in coloration, but very artistic, and a large canvas, a 'Circus' which is excellently composed; a clown cut on the foreground dissatisfies us, but the work as a whole has the stamp of an original artist, it is something!

Camille Pissarro