Seurat showed works similar to _The Lighthouse at Honfleur_ in 1886 at the eighth and last impressionist exhibition, an event that established him as a leading modernist. Based on new theories about optical characteristics of light and color, Seurat invented a technique called pointillism, or divisionism, as a scientifically objective form of impressionism. Seurat juxtaposed minute touches of unmixed pigments in hues corresponding to the perceived local color, the color of light, the complement of the local color for shadow, and reflected color of nearby areas, which in principle will combine visually when viewed from the proper distance. This meticulous technique, less random than impressionism, enabled Seurat to record appearances more accurately while preserving the fresh, natural qualities he admired in impressionist works.

Following the intensive studio campaign leading to the exhibition of _Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande-Jatte_ (Art Institute of Chicago), a controversial work also shown at the 1886 exhibition, Seurat spent the summer at Honfleur, a coastal resort near Le Havre. He relaxed by painting local landmarks such as the hospice and lighthouse in _The Lighthouse at Honfleur_. Balancing warm blond tones in the sand and lighthouse with cool blues in the sky and water and constructing a stable composition around the horizontals of the jetty and horizon crossed by the vertical tower, Seurat created a work of majestic serenity.


  • Title: The Lighthouse at Honfleur
  • Creator: Georges Seurat
  • Date Created: 1886
  • Physical Dimensions: overall: 66.7 x 81.9 cm (26 1/4 x 32 1/4 in.) framed: 94.6 x 109.4 x 10.3 cm (37 1/4 x 43 1/16 x 4 1/16 in.)
  • Provenance: From the artist 1887 to Emile Verhaeren, Paris. Curt von Mützenbecher, Wiesbaden, by 1907. (Bernheim-Jeune, Paris) from 1909 until 1913.[1] Richard Goetz, Paris, from 1913; (Goetz sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 23 February 1922, no. 181);[2] acquired from Goetz in June 1929 through (Dr. Alfred Gold [1874-1958]) by (César de Hauke, New York);[3] on joint account from 1929 with (Alex Reid & Lefèvre, London) and (Jacques Seligmann et Cie., New York and Paris); sold 1934 via (Alex Reid & Lefevre, London) to Mrs. Alfred Chester Beatty [née Edith Dunn Stone, d. 1952], London;[4] by inheritance to Sir Alfred Chester Beatty, London [d. 1968]. (Arthur Tooth and Sons, London); sold 1965 to Mr. Paul Mellon, Upperville, VA; gift 1983 to NGA. [1] Although the purchaser according to annotated copy of sales catalogue in Knoedler library [Knoedler microfiche, French no. 0896] was called Grunewald, this appears to mean that the picture was bought in and/or sold back to Goetz as it was sold by Goetz through Dr. Alfred Gold in 1929. Goetz was a German national whose property was sequestered by the French government during the First World War and sold at this auction in 1922. According to Dorra and Rewald's catalogue raisonné of Seurat, no. 168, Goetz had tried to donate this picture to the Louvre at the outbreak of hostilities in 1914, but it was refused. [2] Lent by Bernheim-Jeune to 1910-1911 exhibition at Grafton Galleries, London. [3] See de Hauke records in the Seligmann papers at the Archives of American Art, box 406 (copies in NGA curatorial files). See also correspondence between de Hauke and Dr. Alfred Gold regarding Gold's commission, and Gold's correspondence with Goetz, in Seligmann papers, box 394 (copies in NGA curatorial files). [4] The painting was still on de Hauke's books when his Gallery closed, and its association with Seligmann dissolved, in 1931. It was then on joint account with Seligmann and Alex Reid & Lefèvre until its sale in 1934. Reid & Lefèvre Paintings Sold, sheet no. 248, #116/29 B1572 gives acquisition source as Wilhelm Lowenstein. However, Gold's correspondence with Richard Goetz (see n. 3 above) makes it clear that Goetz still owned the painting in 1929; perhaps Lowenstein acted as an intermediary. (Lefèvre archives, Hyman Kreitman Research Centre, Tate Britain, London, TGA 2002/11, Box 283). See also the Seligmann papers at the Archives of American Art, Washington, D.C., boxes 7, 177, 406-407 (copies in NGA curatorial files), and Germain Seligman, _Merchants of Art, 1880-1960: Eighty Years of Professional Collecting_, New York, 1961: 206, pl. 64b.
  • Medium: oil on canvas

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