From the exhibition announcement:
Appreciation of Seurat has undergone three stages. At his death in 1891, at the age of thirty-two, he was the leader and hero of neo-impressionism, a movement which sought to compress the scattered color and distributed light of Monet’s followers into a strict, logical program. With the rise of Cubism, Seurat was discovered by Picasso and Braque, who loved him for his classical poise, flawless structure and designing of space and interval. Partly obscured by the rise of Cezanne, another artist concerned with abstract form, Seurat’s influence came later, after artists had realized that not only had Seurat set himself the same problem, of salvaging the object but that he sometimes solved that problem more brilliantly. His example continued to effect contemporary ideas, appearing as a major force in the recent movement known as purism. Today artists are turning to Seurat not only as a formal composer of originality and power, but as the embodiment of true sensibility, which, sustained, clear and ever increasing, shows itself in the seven great works he left behind.
Of these “A Sunday on the Island of La Grande Jatte”- his most significant work in an American museum- is of primary importance. Second of the seven, it is the first complete revelation of the artist’s power to organize impression into transcending design. Moreover it is unique among all modern works for the thoroughness with which he studied each part, about seventy preparatory drawings, painted sketches and larger studies going into its careful construction. Not only are these documents of value in understanding Seurat but they admit us to an artist’s mind where we follow, step by step, the transformation of the raw material of nature into the eternal material of art. Painted in the critical years of 1884-86, the picture likewise gives the various stages is Seurat’s revolt against Impressionism and his subsequent remaking of the method. By itself “La Grande Jatte,” though integration of every means at Seurat’s command, is one of the few pictures within recent memory, completely, irrevocably, undeniably, a work of art.
- Daniel Catton Rich