Seurat and the Avant-garde (Hardcover)

By Paul Smith

Yale University Press, 9780300070026, 224pp.

Publication Date: July 21, 1997

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Description

Georges Seurat, one of the most popular and admired of post-Impressionist painters, has been the focus of much attention in recent years. This book by Paul Smith views the artist in a new context and explodes some of the myths that have grown up about him. Challenging the assumption that Seurat’s work was scientific or that it expressed a serious commitment to anarchism, Smith instead traces the painters involvement with the various factions of the avant-garde and shows that he was perhaps the earliest exponent of Idealism in modern art.

Smith studies contemporary interpretations of Impressionism and analyzes how the groups surrounding Seurat constructed meaning from his art. From this investigation he creates a portrait of Seurat as one who was willing to accept, even encourage, interpretations of his art that he may not have intended. Smith shows, for example, that the "scientific" account of Seurat’s color first developed by Félix Fénéon actually represents the theory and practice of Pissaro. He examines Seurat’s involvement with anarchist critics and concludes that he merely posed as a painter with left-wing sympathies in order to benefit from the publicity these writers gave him. He explains that Seurat was sympathetic to Symbolism from its very inception and that he and his early Symbolist critics developed a theory of his art that was founded on Schopenhauer and Wagner’s ideas on art. And he explores the ways that Seurat focused on the musicality of art and on incorporating certain "musical" features in his work. Beautifully illustrated and engagingly written, this book presents a convincing new interpretation of the work of a major artist.


About the Author

Paul Smith is a lecturer in the art history department at the University of Bristol.