Abstract Canvas Prints No 63 : Bathers at Asnieres (1884)
For him the Impressionists were painting pictures that resembled a jumble of clothes carelessly thrown to the floor, he thought they should be folded into tidy piles.
Seurat’s aim was to bring order and discipline to Impressionism, to take their innovations with colour and codify them, to bring more shape to their forms and scientific methodology to their objectivity.
Bathers at Asnieres (1884) was his first major painting.
It made quite a splash. And not just because of its monumental size (2 m x 3 m), or Seurat’s age, he was only 24 when he produced it.
Set on a balmy summers day, the atmospheric picture shows a group of working men and young boys, all of whom are in profile, relaxing by the river Seine.
Two youngsters stand waist deep, cooling off in the water, the one nearest to the viewer is wearing a bright red bathing cap. An older boy sits watching on the bank, dangling his feet over the edge.
Behind him, a man in a bowler hat lazes on his side, and further back still sits another gent surveying the river, with his head and eyes obscured by a larger panama.
Sailing boats tack across the water in the distance and columns of industrial smoke bellow upwards from Paris’s modern factories on the horizon.
The restful, suburban tableau is mirrored by the serenity of Seurat’s painting..
He painted the scene in a clear figurative style with none of the misty ambiguity found in the Impressionists’ canvases.
In Seurat’s sparsely populated landscape the river and its banks have been turned into well-defined geometric shapes.
Seurat’s colours – the reds, greens, blues and whites are just as vibrant as Monet’s or Renoit’s, but they have been applied with a machine like precision.
Bathers at Asnieres :