Seurat – The Bathers

In many works of the impressionist movement, brilliancy and iridescence of coloring were emphasized to such an extent that all strength of design was lost. Objects had no definite shapes; their arrangement in space was vague and misty. Seurat, along with Cezanne and Renoir, succeeded in organizing the new brilliant color and light into firm, rhythmic designs of solid objects in deep space, thus restoring to painting some of the old values of Renaissance art, along with the new ones of impressionism. This is one of the few late, elaborately developed works of the short-lived Seurat; most of the pictures bearing his name are slight sketches or early, purely impressionist studies. He employs in it the peculiar technique called ” pointillism ” or ” neo-impressionism,” consisting of rather large, similarly shaped dots of contrasting color side by side, the colors being chosen and arranged with mathematical care so as to blend into the desired sparkling tints. The picture’s value, how-ever, lies not in this mechanical technique, now obsolete, but in the design he achieved with it or in spite of it. There is a monumental quality, as of Egyptian sculpture, in these immense rigid figures placed immovably at definite intervals in space, welded together by insistent repetition of the same short curves (in the boys backs, heads, hats and shoes, and in the distant sail-boats). They stand out with unnatural, striking clarity and dazzling richness of color, every shadow as well as every highlight throbbing with some intense violet, green or blue unknown to pre-impressionist painting.