The painting I have chosen is The Circus by the famous painter Georges Pierre Seurat. It was painted in 1891, but Seurat died before it was finished. This is the last painting made by Seurat. It is painted on oil on canvas. He made the painting with pointillist technique. Its dimensions are 180cm x 148cm. Paul Signac (another famous neo-impressionist painter) bought the painting and then he sold it to John Quinn. The painting was shown in the 7th “Salon des Artistes Independants”. Now the painting is in the
Museum in Paris ( ). France
This painting represents a pleasant scene in the circus. In the foreground you can see the people who are performing the show. There are a clown, a dancer and a juggler doing pirouettes. They are performing together in the stage. The clown is waving a yellow a ribbon that reaches almost the exit gate of the circus. There are also a horse and a person who is guiding its performance. Behind them, in the background, you can see the grandstands where there is a happy public watching the show. In the right upper part of the background you can see some people playing different instruments like the violin to make the show more pleasant.
The painter wanted to represent his subjective view of the circus. He made the painting with pointillist technique. This technique consists of making the painting with dots of pure colours. He used primary colours with their complementary colours. He reduced his palette to four colours in which warm colours predominate, especially yellow. The use of curved lines is also striking. All this has a meaning: he wanted to represent the joy of the show. The use of warm colours gives life to the painting, making it more striking at first sight. In this way it is closer to the circus theme.
The dancer, the acrobat, the position of the horse… give movement to the painting in the foreground in contrast with the rigid figures of the grandstands in the background.
Seurat did several sketches of the painting. He used the pure colours and he made the painting with dots of colour, because he wanted that the small touches mixed in the eyes of the viewer.
Another characteristic of the painting is that he represented the feelings the show awakened in the audience. Among the audience you can observe that some of them are laughing, others are looking with curiosity. The representation of these gestures makes the scene more real.
Georges Pierre Seurat is considered to be the leader of neo-impressionism because he was the first painter to break up with the ideas of impressionism. He was the first to show the artistic movement in his works. His ideas were based on impressionism but the colours and the lines had more importance. There are some neo-impressionist features like the use of pure colours or the pointillist technique (paintings are made with dots).
Seurat was influenced by Delacroix and Ingres. He was interested in the novels of Goncourt brothers about the French social life. The specific inspiration of the painting was the Goncourt’s tale Frères Zemgano (Zemgano Brothers).
The Circus belonged to a series of three paintings. The paintings are Circus Sideshow, Can-Can and The Circus.
There were other painters who represented circus scenes such as Renoir (Clown in the Circus), Degas (Miss
La La at the Cirque Fernando)
and Toulouse-Lautrec (Au Cirque Fernando
Clown in the Circus
Miss La La at the Cirque Fernando
Au Cirque Fernando l'Ecuyère
Seurat’s ideas were followed by Paul Signac and later by Camille Pisarro. His ideas lead to the birth of Cubism and Abstract Art.
This is Portrait of Félix Féneon by Paul Signac.
Some curious information is that after Seurat’s death the painting was considered to be a plagiarism of a poster the painter Jules Chéret made in 1880 for the Spectacle-Promenade de l’Horloge in the Champs-Elysèes. Meyer Schapiro proved that Seurat drew inspiration from an anonymous poster for the Nouveau Cirque.
In my opinion this painting is beautiful because it is a painting with a lot of warm colours and it shows the feelings of the audience who is watching the show. I like this painting because it reminds me of childhood.