Pointillism Through The Eyes of Seurat

Delve deeper into 'The Bridge at Courbevoie' (around 1886-87) by French artist Georges Seurat.

Man painting a boat (circa 1883) by Georges SeuratThe Courtauld Institute of Art

A Pioneer of Pointillism

Georges Seurat (1859-1891) was a painter working in Paris at the end of the 19th century. He is best known as a key figure in developing the technique of Pointillism.

Bridge at Courbevoie (1886/1887) by Georges SeuratThe Courtauld Institute of Art

Seurat enjoyed painting scenic landscapes such as beaches, where he could observe people relaxing and enjoying nature.

This charming body of water that Seurat painted can be identified as the River Seine, which flows through Paris.

Here we see Seurat adeptly using the technique of pointillism.

Pointillism is a technique of painting in which the artist paints by applying thousands of tiny dots, or points, of colour.

Altogether, the side-by-side coloured dots mix in the viewer’s eyes and brain, creating a dynamic coherent image.

An example of optical mixing, in the viewer’s eyes the perceived blending of adjacent marks creates the perception of a combined colour.

The blending of colour increases with distance.

Seurat's use of pointillism created harmonies of light and colour, which provided the silvery effect of sunlight filtering through the clouds.

Contrastingly, stillness is emphasised by the isolated figures on the river bank.

It is also emphasised by the vertical pattern of the trees and boat masts.

Observing other details, the factory chimney in the distance is a reminder that the town of Courbevoie was a rapidly industrialising suburb of Paris.

Bridge at Courbevoie (1886/1887) by Georges SeuratThe Courtauld Institute of Art

The melancholy and quietness of the painting are juxtaposed by the perceived dynamism evoked from the effect of oscillating dots. 

Following the technique of pointillism, Seurat believed that the new optical theories of the time would make his pictures more vibrant.

Georges Seurat (1859 -1891), Bridge at Courbevoie, 1886, Oil on Canvas, 46.4 x 55.3cm, © The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London

Bridge at Courbevoie (1886/1887) by Georges SeuratThe Courtauld Institute of Art

Credits: Story

Explore more of The Courtauld's collection.


Georges Seurat (1859 -1891), Bridge at Courbevoie, 1886, Oil on Canvas, 46.4 x 55.3cm, © The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London

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