Final Study of Bathers at Asnières by Georges Seurat

By Friday, April 07, 2017 ,

We live in a world where true happiness is hidden behind Instagram filters. People no longer want to show you their real life and surroundings. They want to show what you want to see.

Well Seurat had quite similar first world problems.

He was an artist living in a world where every other artist wanted to draw beautiful and romantic paintings of women bathing in water and women coming out of water.

He looked at all these paintings and said – Wait, a minute, this looks fake and imaginary. I only see working class men relaxing near water. Shouldn’t someone take on the responsibility of depicting the actual scene at the banks of a river?

So, he decided to do it himself (and in quite a big way). He took a 6.5 feet by 10 feet canvas and painted the middle working class relaxing at the banks of River Siene. And that’s how we got the masterpiece - Bathers at Asnières.

Since the painting was so huge, Seuarat did several sketches and studies of the subjects before he painted it on the big canvas. This painting, is the final study Bathers at Asnières before Seurat replicated it on the canvas.

About Bathers at Asnières

Seurat was at the very forefront of post impressionist movement as he challenged the very notions of impressionism.

A single glance at this painting might make it seem ‘ordinary’ but once you learn the efforts that went behind it, you begin to appreciate its beauty.

First and foremost, Seurat wasn’t a spontaneous artist like many of his contemporaries. He did not just take his easel to a café like Van Gogh and painted a masterpiece. He was a perfectionist and he believed in pure and simple hard work.

It took Seurat a total of 14 oil sketches and 10 drawings to create this beauty, and that to me is just astonishing.

Let’s start with the fact that how easily Seurat is able to depict summer in the painting. Everyone is shedding off their clothes or wearing hats. The clothes pay a special role here, especially the ones on the ground because they were typical of the working class.

But my favourite part is the slight summer haze in the trees, which you can see when you zoom really in.

Seurat also finds an amazing way of depicting smoke – Much like in real life, the smoke in the painting slips into nothingness.

There is also a subtle ‘shade’ to the upper classes, as Seurat paints a small boat in the background with a man in a top hat and woman with an umbrella enjoying the ride while someone else rows the boat.

Seurat also variations of Chevreul’s law of Simultaneous Contrast in his paintings to make the objects stand out. Basically, it’s the phenomenon of light which makes objects stand out from each other. 

This can be easily seen when we look closely at the boy in the water. All around his figure, Seurat lightened the edges to make the boy stand out (You can also see this effect in other people as you zoom in)

And last but not the least, the great Georges Seurat invented pointillism, which is the technique of painting the entire object with millions of small dots. Several of his contemporaries adopted this technique including Paul Signac and Vincent Van Gogh. In fact, he even ended up inspiring modern artists like Andy Warhol

But, no one does it like Seurat.

While this painting was done by him before he invented pointillism, we can still see it in bits and pieces.

Much like his contemporaries, Seurat’s work wasn’t immediately appreciated. When his painting was showcased in an exhibition for the first time, it failed to garner any attention because it was so ginormous that it had to be kept in the beer hall.

What the Bathers at Asnières means to me

This painting screams ambition and organization to me. Seurat is a shining example that if you sub-divide your tasks and make a clear plan of how you want to execute things then nothing is really impossible, not even a 10 feet painting.

He knew he was drawing a masterpiece when he did this, and he gave it his all. He didn’t even care when his painting got bad reviews and didn’t get accepted in the Salon (a major who’s who club of the French artists). 

He knew in his head this was a perfection, and that’s what really mattered.

In a way Seurat was a genius who inspired a whole another generation of artists. Sadly, he died too soon at the age of 31, but his legacy lives by. 

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  1. Really awesome post on the painting, Ritika. I don't know much about Seurat and this makes me very interested. Happy Friday! Denise

    1. Yes, Seaurat was actually one of the most influential artist of his time, who is for some reason more famous among other artists and could not get the same mainstream success as Picasso and Van Gogh

  2. Beautifully described. Did not realize that 'Simultaneous contrast' or the 'million dots' - pointillism - man, I am gonna sound so knowledgable at the end of this series!

    1. Believe it or not, I didn't know it as well!

      Just researching my way with the internet and post impressionist books to learn something new everyday :)

  3. Also, could you consider adding the 'Shareaholic' buttons at the end of the post. It would be easier to click instantly after reading and appreciating the article.

    1. Done! :)

      Thanks for pointing it out! I didn't realize my posts were getting so long because of the pictures

  4. So many paintings on Bathing scenarios
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  5. I found you on the A to Z. I love Seurat and always am dumbfounded at his exacting work. I wonder how he could make the smoke recede into nothing by all these tiny, tiny points. I often find his works are one of many people but they are not engaged with each other. The crowd seem lonely to me. Wonderful post. Will check out your others:)

    1. That's exactly what I thought Birgit! But I think Seurat does it intentionally to show the reality. If we were seating on the beach side, we hardly interact with strangers around us.

      And thank you for your kind words :)

  6. Very interesting but man that was a lot of preparation in order to arrive at the finished project.

  7. Really appreciate this ATOZchallenge of yours - a rookie like me ended up deriving some deep insights on artwork.

    I bid your blog farewell, for now. Got to wake up early tomorrow..
    All your curated content here has been a great revelation for me,truly. I'm really thankful to the random Quora dude who suggested your blog. Guess destiny is a thing for sure.

    I leave with a positive outlook, reinforced conviction, and a much 'unscrewed' me - out of your blog.

    Keep spreading your vibes, the best you do. I shall try to be up to speed :)