Thursday, February 26, 2015




As a highlight of its Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale on November 3,  2010 Christie's offered a superb group of early works by Georges Seurat (1859-1891), including a study in oil for his most famous painting, Un dimanche d’été à l'Île de la Grande Jatte, now in the collection of The Art Institute of Chicago.  The study, along with four rare early drawings that demonstrate Seurat's considerable skill as a draughtsman, is from a distinguished French collection.  Acquired over the course of a dozen years between 1988 and 2001, the group is expected to achieve a combined total in excess of $4 million.

“The appearance of such a sizable group of Seurat works on the market is a rare event,” said Conor Jordan, Head of Impressionist and Modern Art at Christie's New York.  “Seurat died tragically young at just 31 years old, leaving us with only a small output of works that have become highly sought-after by collectors and institutions worldwide.  This group of drawings and studies offers an exciting glimpse into Seurat's considerable genius, showing us how he explored composition, light and shadow, and the optical qualities of pure color.” 

Paysage, homme assis  (étude pour Un Dimanche d'été à l'Ile de La Grande Jatte)

The highlight of the group was Paysage, homme assis (estimate: $1,500,000-2,500,000), an oil on panel executed around 1884 as a preparatory study for Seurat’s greatest masterpiece, the monumental Un dimanche d’été à l'Île de la Grande Jatte.  This small study belongs to a crucial group of oil sketches Seurat created on the site of La Grande Jatte in 1884 to help him work through the challenges of his final composition.  With nearly all the figures save for the seated man at the left of the study removed from the scene, Seurat employed his trademark Divisionist technique to frame his view of the park on the banks of the Seine, juxtaposing touches of pure color directly onto the surface of the panel.  The result is an exceptional jewel-like landscape that stands on it own merits, while at the same offering a tantalizing glimpse into the development of Seurat’s greatest masterpiece.

Drawings often serve as the best insight into any given artist’s working methods, and the group of four early drawings included in this private collection beautifully illustrates Seurat’s increasingly refined approach to pictorial composition.  For three years while Seurat was enrolled in the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, the young artist concentrated on creating vigorous life-sketches of people he saw in the street.


Among the earliest examples of these figure drawings is Le Peintre à la palette from circa 1881 (pictured above; estimate: $80,000-120,000).  Believed to be either a self-portrait or a study of his fellow artist Charles Angrand, the drawing reveals Seurat’s early system of using parallel strokes to model shapes and cross-hatching lines to render light and contrast.


 Later the same year, Seurat completed the little Conté crayon drawing Femme s’éloignant (pictured above, middle left; estimate: $100,000-150,000), which marks the artist’s first foray into what would become a larger series of drawings depicting enigmatic female figures.  Both works were first owned by Seurat’s contemporary and colleague Paul Signac before passing into private hands.  The upcoming sale marks the first time that either work has appeared at auction.



Seurat’s mature drawing technique is evident in two exceptional works created with only a black Conté crayon on Michallet, Seurat’s favorite brand of drawing paper. A luminous depiction of an elegantly dressed Parisienne, La Promenade from circa 1882 (pictured previous page, middle right; estimate: $1,500,000-2,500,000) is a marvel of chiaroscuro technique that demonstrates Seurat’s absolute understanding of the subtleties of light and shade.  For La Promenade and the later work Faneur (Casseur de pierres) from circa 1883 (pictured previous page, right; estimate: $800,000-1,200,000),   Seurat took advantage of the natural grain of the paper and the varied intensity of his marks to create the full range of tones from velvety black to purest white, making it appear as though light is emanating from the paper itself.  Widely recognized as one of the artist’s finest drawings, La Promenade was unveiled to the public for the first time at Seurat’s important monographic exhibition at Galerie Bernheim-Jeune in Paris in 1920, and was more recently featured in the 2007/2008 exhibition “Georges Seurat: The Drawings” at New York’s MoMA.

 In recent seasons, top prices have been achieved for Seurat works at auction; in February of this year,  

Garçonnet assis (Maurice Appert), a crayon and gouache drawing from circa 1884 achieved $3.1 million at auction,

and in May 2009, Femme avec deux fillettes, a Conté crayon drawing dated between 1882 and 1884 achieved $2.1 million.

The upcoming Evening Sale will also feature a sixth Seurat work, Le Chemin creux (estimate: $1.8-2.5 million), an important early landscape from the collection of the prominent San Francisco collectors Walter and Phyllis Shorenstein.

Sotheby's 2015

LOT SOLD. 7,765,000 GBP

Sotheby's 2014

LOT SOLD. 5,317,000 USD

LOT SOLD. 1,142,500 GBP

LOT SOLD. 2,434,500 GBP

LOT SOLD. 482,500 GBP

Lot. Vendu 2,965,000 USD

Sotheby's 2013

LOT SOLD. 425,000 USD 

LOT SOLD. 509,000 USD

Christie's 2005



Christie's 2006

Christie's 2007

Christie's 2009

 Christie's 2010

Georges Seurat (1859-1891)
Paysage avec cheval

 Christie's 2015