The painting that I’ve chosen is Bathers at Asnières, by Georges Pierre Seurat. It was painted in 1884 and in that year he submitted it to the jury of the Official Salon, but the jury rejected it. After that it was presented in the Salon des Indépendants. It’s an oil painting on canvas and its dimensions are
201 cm × 300 cm. At the moment this painting is located in
the National Gallery in London.
In this painting we can see a group of people on the bank of a big river. It has beautiful colours predominate in the clothes, in the grass, in the sky... In the background we see big factories in crayon colours. There are also two children in the river, they are playing with the water. And the rest of the people are observing the landscape. I can also see a small dog next to someone. I suppose it belongs to that person. They are lying and sitting down on the grass, I suppose observing the opposite bank. They are wearing simple clothes like white t-shirts, black trousers… The expressions of their faces are simple and serious, as if their lives didn’t have any meaning.
In the spring of 1883, young Georges Seurat exhibited his first monumental composition, The Bathers at Asnières. Unlike Auguste Renoir and others, who created fetching groups of naked female bathers enjoying in an Arcadian nature, Seurat chose to represent a diverse group of working-class males on an unpicturesque stretch of the Seine near the industrial landscape of Clichy.
Seurat wanted to represent in this painting the beautiful season of summer in the riverside of a big French river called Seine, where people went to spend the day. He represented this with a blue sky, with grass and, of course, dressing the people with summer clothes, like short pants, hats, shirtless people and so on. He also painted trees that provide shade to people and in the background of the painting we can see some factories and buildings in light colours.
His painting was painted in a small studio in the rue Chabrol. Before doing the definitive paintings, Seurat did sketches in small dimensions and he put them on the wall of his small studio. He used Conté crayon to work out means of deploying light and shade for the purpose of implying space and plasticity. At the same time Seurat studied at the École. These experiences helped Seurat to emerge from the discipline of the École, and to cause him to fashion his own distinctly modern method of applying paint and using tone and colour. He immersed himself in the writings and ideas of other aesthetic theoreticians such as David Sutter, the chemist Michel Eugène Chevreul and the physicist Ogden Rood, and with the painting of the Bathers he borrowed heavily their ideas about colours and the way humans perceive them.
These are possible preparatory sketches for the Bathers:
Seurat spent much of his early years painting workers. Initially he planned to do the same in the Bathers, depicting horses being bathed in the river by stable boys. In this study, the suggestion of labour was replaced by a scene of pure leisure, featuring just human figures. The working or lower-middle class shown relaxing on the bank have no direct reference to the industry behind them.
Bathers at Asnières had also identical size to the painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, which represented the right bank of the river. This painting was painted in 1883. He wanted to represent the class-based society. On A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (the right bank) he represented the bourgeoisie and on Bathers at Asnières (the left bank) he painted the working class people.
The Bathers are cast in light, while on the Grande Jatte people are mostly in shadows and there are some symbols of lust, like a woman with a monkey on a leash, and prostitution, like a woman fishing. And Seurat also wanted to express that the working class people said to the bourgeoisie that they were the future and the bourgeois had to come and join them.
Georges Pierre Seurat was a French Neo- Impressionist painter. His drawings were mainly made with the technique of pointillism. But the Bathers was painted on oil on canvas because he hadn’t invented pointillism yet, but he later reworked some areas of this painting to create contrasts of colour in some parts.
His work of A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte altered the direction of art and created Neo- Impressionism. His main paintings were:
La Parade ( 1889) The Eiffel Tower (1889)
The Seine At La Grande Jatte. Springtime (1888)
Gray weather, Grande Jatte, (1888)
The Seine at Courbevoie (1885)
I like this painting because it´s really colourful, the expression of the people (once you know the meaning), their costumes are very good, properly from the working class people (the left bank of the river) and of course I like the technique.