Seurat spent two months in the late summer and early fall of 1881 in Pontaubert, a village southeast of Paris once frequented by Daubigny, Corot, and other Barbizon landscape painters. His visit inspired this sous-bois or forest glade, which Seurat probably completed that winter in the studio he shared with his traveling companion and fellow artist Aman-Jean. With its concert of greens, its subtle, shimmering light effects, and its vertical pattern of tree trunks, this work anticipates the verdant settings of Seurat’s monumental Bathers at Asnières in London (1884) and A Sunday on La Grande Jatte in Chicago (1884–86).
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Title:The Forest at Pontaubert
Artist:Georges Seurat (French, Paris 1859–1891 Paris)
Medium:Oil on canvas
Dimensions:31 1/8 x 24 5/8 in. (79.1 x 62.5 cm)
Credit Line:Purchase, Gift of Raymonde Paul, in memory of her brother, C. Michael Paul, by exchange, 1985
the artist's brother, Émile Seurat, Paris (until about 1900); Alexandre Natanson, Paris (about 1900–at least 1909); [Bernheim-Jeune, Paris]; Otto von Waetjen, Paris, Barcelona, and Düsseldorf (by 1914–about 1919); [Galerie Alfred Flechtheim, Berlin and Düsseldorf]; Kocherthaler (in 1935); Kenneth Clark, Lord Clark of Saltwood, London (by 1937–d. 1983; his estate, 1983–85; sold through E. V. Thaw to The Met)
Paris. Revue Blanche. "Georges Seurat (1860 [sic]–1891): Œuvres peintes et dessinées," March 19–April 5, 1900, not in catalogue [see de Hauke 1961, p. 232].
Paris. Bernheim-Jeune. "Georges Seurat (1859–1891)," December 14, 1908–January 9, 1909, no. 6 (as "Sous bois," lent by M. A[lexandre]. N[atanson].).
Düsseldorf. Galerie Alfred Flechtheim. "Expressionisten," Easter–mid-May, 1919, unnumbered cat. (as "Unterholz," p. 15).
Berlin. Flechtheim. "Paysages," 1923, no catalogue? [see de Hauke 1961].
Brussels. Palais des Beaux-Arts. "L'Impressionnisme," June 15–September 29, 1935, no. 79 (as "Sous bois," lent by a private collection).
Paris. Paul Rosenberg. "Exposition Seurat," February 3–29, 1936, no. 3 (as "Sous-bois à Pontaubert Yonne," with incorrect dimensions).
London. Wildenstein & Co., Inc. "Seurat and His Contemporaries," January 20–February 27, 1937, no. 35 (as "Sous-bois à Pontaubert," lent by Kenneth Clark, Esq.).
London. National Gallery. "Nineteenth-Century French Paintings," December 9, 1942–January 17, 1943, no. 42 (as "Sous Bois," lent by Sir Kenneth Clark, K.C.B.).
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Landscape in French Art 1550–1900," December 10, 1949–March 5, 1950, no. 291 (as "A Wood at Pontaubert," lent by Sir Kenneth Clark).
New York. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. "Neo-Impressionism," February 9–April 7, 1968, no. 64 (lent by Sir Kenneth Clark).
Yokohama Museum of Art. "Treasures from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: French Art from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century," March 25–June 4, 1989, no. 101.
Paris. Galeries nationales du Grand Palais. "Seurat, 1859–1891," April 9–August 12, 1991, no. 78.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Georges Seurat, 1859–1891," September 24, 1991–January 12, 1992, no. 79.
Fort Lauderdale. Museum of Art. "Corot to Cézanne: 19th Century French Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," December 22, 1992–April 11, 1993, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Neo-Impressionism: The Circle of Paul Signac," October 2–December 30, 2001, no catalogue.
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "The Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920," February 4–May 6, 2007, no. 110.
Berlin. Neue Nationalgalerie. "Französische Meisterwerke des 19. Jahrhunderts aus dem Metropolitan Museum of Art," June 1–October 7, 2007, unnumbered cat.
Milan. Palazzo Reale. "Georges Seurat, Paul Signac e i neoimpressionisti," October 10, 2008–January 25, 2009, no. 1.
Kunsthaus Zürich. "Georges Seurat: Figure in Space," October 2, 2009–January 17, 2010, no. 43.
Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt. "Georges Seurat: Figure in Space," February 4–May 9, 2010, no. 43.
Copenhagen. Statens Museum for Kunst. "Hammershøi og Europa," February 4–May 20, 2012, no. 107.
Munich. Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung. "Hammershøi und Europa: Ein dänischer Künstler um 1900," June 15–September 16, 2012, no. 107.
Madrid. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. "Impresionismo y Aire Libre: De Corot a Van Gogh," February 5–May 12, 2013, no. 51.
London. Tate Britain. "Kenneth Clark: Looking for Civilisation," May 20–August 10, 2014, no. 74.
Cincinnati Art Museum. "Van Gogh: Into the Undergrowth," October 15, 2016–January 8, 2017, no. 22.
Lucie Cousturier. "Georges Seurat (1859–1891)." L'Art décoratif 27 (June 1912), ill. p. 362.
Walter Cohen. "Rheinischer Kunstbrief." Kunstchronik und Kunstmarkt, n.s., no. 33 (May 30, 1919), p. 683, ill. p. 686, notes that it is on exhibition at the Galerie Flechtheim in Düsseldorf.
Lucie Cousturier. Seurat. Paris, , pl. 5, dates it 1882.
Gustave Coquiot. Seurat. Paris, 1924, pp. 198, 245, dates it 1882.
Lucie Cousturier. Seurat. Paris, 1926, fig. 3.
Claude Roger-Marx. Seurat. Paris, 1931, fig. 2, dates it 1882.
Douglas Lord [Douglas Cooper]. "Shorter Notices: The Impressionists at the Palais des Beaux Arts [Brussels]." Burlington Magazine 67 (August 1935), p. 87, identifies the lender to Exh. Brussels 1935 as Kocherthaler.
Benedict Nicolson. "Seurat's 'La Baignade'." Burlington Magazine 79 (November 1941), p. 146, surmises that it was probably painted in 1882, but suggests that Seurat added the "enhancing spots on the bark of the trees at a later date, when 'pointillisme' began to intrigue him"; compares this later technique with the "superimposed spots of pure red" on the cap of the boy in the water in "Bathers at Asnières" (National Gallery, London).
John Rewald. Georges Seurat. [2nd, revised ed. 1946; French ed. 1948]. New York, 1943, p. 8, dates it 1882.
John Rewald. Seurat (1859–1891). [1st ed.]. Paris, [1949?], pl. 13, dates it 1882; as in the collection of Kenneth Clark, London.
R[eginald]. H[oward]. Wilenski. Seurat (1859–1891). Exh. cat., Faber Gallery. London, 1949, p. 2, dates it 1882.
Henri Dorra and John Rewald. Seurat: L'œuvre peint, biographie et catalogue critique. Paris, 1959, p. 7, no. 8, ill., date it "1880 (?)".
William I. Homer. "Henri Dorra and John Rewald, Seurat; l'œuvre peint; biographie et catalogue critique." Art Bulletin 42 (September 1960), p. 230, disagrees with Dorra and Rewald's [see Ref. 1959] date, noting that such a date would make it Seurat's first pointillist work.
C. M. de Hauke. Seurat et son œuvre. Paris, 1961, vol. 1, pp. 8–9, 258, 263, no. 14, ill., dates it about 1882; reproduces an installation photograph of it in Exh. Paris 1936.
William I. Homer. "Seurat's Paintings and Drawings." Burlington Magazine 105 (June 1963), p. 284, states that it is "one of the most problematic canvases of Seurat's oeuvre"; agrees with Nicolson's [see Ref. 1941] opinion that it is an early canvas later repainted in a pointillist technique, noting that "the underpainting is composed of sombre earth colours, which we know Seurat did not use after 1884; but subsequent layers of pigment were applied in a pointillist manner characteristic of his technique of 1886–7".
John Russell. Seurat. New York, 1965, pp. 105–6, 278, colorpl. 101, dates it about 1883–87; states that it "owes something to Corot in the delicate alignment of branches and trunks"; calls it the first oil by Seurat that shows "maintenance throughout the picture of a perfectly unemphatic handling".
Anthony Blunt in Roger Fry. Seurat. London, 1965, p. 77, colorpl. 3, questioningly dates it 1881, noting it was reworked later; states that "the artist seems to have reworked the whole canvas, with the result that there is some feeling of conflict between the general conception of the painting and its actual execution".
Robert L. Herbert. Neo-Impressionism. Exh. cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. New York, 1968, p. 101, no. 64, ill., dates it 1881, noting that Seurat spent several weeks in Pontaubert in the late summer and early autumn of that year; rejects the theory that Seurat reworked it later, calling it "a perfectly logical outgrowth of Seurat's immersion in Barbizon style" and asserts that the pigments are those the artist used in 1881–82; calls it Seurat's most ambitious painting before the "Bathers at Asnières" in London.
Pierre Courthion. Georges Seurat. 1st ed. New York, , pp. 68–69, ill. (color), dates it about 1882; notes that the "stiffly vertical tree" in the foreground later appears in "La Grande Jatte" (Art Institute of Chicago), "The Seine at Courbevoie" (Private collection), and other works.
Fiorella Minervino inL'opera completa di Seurat. [1st, French ed., 1973]. Milan, 1972, pp. 91–92, no. 12, ill., dates it about 1882.
Louis Hautecœur. Georges Seurat. Milan, 1972, ill. p. 83, dates it about 1880.
Norma Broude. "New Light on Seurat's 'Dot': Its Relation to Photomechanical Color Printing in France in the 1880's." Art Bulletin 56 (December 1974), pp. 585–86, fig. 6, dates it 1881–82.
Angelica Zander Rudenstine. The Guggenheim Museum Collection. Vol. 2, Paintings 1880–1945. New York, 1976, p. 639, states that Herbert's analysis [see Ref. 1968] dating it to 1881 was later substantiated by the discovery of an inn receipt recording Seurat's Pontaubert visit in October 1881.
Masataka Ogawa and Takeshi Kashiwa. Seurat. Tokyo, 1978, unpaginated, colorpl. 2.
Richard Thomson. Seurat. Oxford, 1985, p. 41, colorpl. 30, as in the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Alan Clark, Saltwood Castle; dates it 1881.
Gary Tinterow inRecent Acquisitions: A Selection, 1985–1986. New York, 1986, p. 34, ill., dates it 1881; calls it "perhaps the key work in Seurat's early œuvre, forming a link between his extensive career as a draftsman and his first programmatic picture, 'Bathing at Asnières'"; states that its complex painting technique is "the first manifestation of what would become the artist's preoccupation".
Denys Sutton inTreasures from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: French Art from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century. Exh. cat., Yokohama Museum of Art. [Tokyo], 1989, p. 23.
Gary Tinterow inTreasures from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: French Art from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century. Exh. cat., Yokohama Museum of Art. [Tokyo?], 1989, p. 156, no. 101. ill. (color), dates it about 1881.
John Rewald. Seurat: A Biography. New York, 1990, ill. p. 19 (color), dates it 1881.
Alain Madeleine-Perdrillat. Seurat. New York, 1990, p. 43, ill. (color), dates it about 1880–81.
Catherine Grenier. Seurat: Catalogo completo dei dipinti. Florence, 1990, p. 23, colorpl. 12, dates it 1882.
Michael F. Zimmermann. Seurat and the Art Theory of His Time. Antwerp, 1991, p. 103, fig. 169 (color), dates it about 1882; believes that most of the "pointillist" dabs of color form part of the original composition; asserts that studies "of this type formed part of the classical curriculum at art schools," providing another argument for an early date.
Robert L. Herbert et al. Georges Seurat, 1859–1891. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1991, pp. 113–16, 136, 433, no. 79, ill. (color) [French ed., "Seurat", Paris, pp. 152–54, 156, 172, no. 78, ill. (color)], dates it 1881–82; hails it as the "largest and most ambitious of Seurat's canvases" until the London "Bathers".
Richard Tilston. Seurat. London, 1991, pp. 32–33, ill. (color), dates it 1881 and erroneously locates it in a private collection; cites the influence of Corot.
Roger Hurlburt. "Free Spirits." Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale) (December 20, 1992), p. 4D.
Helen Kohen. "Lasting Impressions." Miami Herald (December 20, 1992), p. 6I.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 500, ill.
Peter Paquet. Helldunkel, Raum und Form: Georges Seurat als Zeichner. Frankfurt am Main, 2000, p. 141.
Christophe Duvivier inGeorges Seurat et le néo-impressionnisme, 1885–1905. Exh. cat., Museum of Art, Kochi. Tokyo, 2002, pp. 11, 228, fig. 8.
Susan Alyson Stein inThe Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. New York, 2007, pp. 150, 254–55, no. 110, ill. (color and black and white).
Susan Alyson Stein inMasterpieces of European Painting, 1800–1920, in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, pp. 176, 301–2, no. 164, ill. (color and black and white).
Eric Alliez with the collaboration of Jean-Clet Martin. L'oeil-cerveau: nouvelles histoires de la peinture moderne. Paris, 2007, p. 253 n. 2 [English ed., "The Brain-Eye: New Histories of Modern Painting," London, 2016, p. 240 n. 102], notes its "anti-realist yet mysteriously 'objective' (over)]naturalism," in common with his drawings and that its "little dots" may be at least partially the product of later interventions.
Nicole Tamburini inGeorges Seurat, Paul Signac e i neoimpressionisti. Exh. cat., Palazzo Reale. Milan, 2008, pp. 102–3, 225, no. 1, ill. (color and black and white), dates it 1881–82.
Nancy Ireson. "The Pointillist and the Past: three English Views of Seurat." Burlington Magazine 152 (December 2010), pp. 802–3, fig. 29 (color).
Kasper Monrad inHammershøi and Europe. Ed. Kasper Monrad. Exh. cat., Statens Museum for Kunst. Copenhagen, 2012, pp. 130, 132, no. 107, compares it to Vilhelm Hammershøi's "Landscape in Snow, Søndermarken" (1895–96, The Hirschsprung Collection, Copenhagen).
Tone Bonnén inHammershøi and Europe. Ed. Kasper Monrad. Exh. cat., Statens Museum for Kunst. Copenhagen, 2012, p. 231.
Hammershøi and Europe. Ed. Kasper Monrad. Exh. cat., Statens Museum for Kunst. Copenhagen, 2012, p. 241.
Laura Prins inVan Gogh: Into the Undergrowth. Exh. cat., Cincinnati Art Museum. Cincinnati, 2016, pp. 136–37, no. 22, ill. (color), compares it to Piero della Francesca's depiction of a forest in "The Resurrection of Christ" (1463–65, Museo Civico, Sansepolcro).
Colta Ives. Public Parks, Private Gardens: Paris to Provence. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2018, pp. 36, 188, fig. 32 (color).
Roswitha Juffinger. "Die Judith-Tapisserie aus dem Stift Nonnberg in Salzburg. Provenienz-Recherche zu einem spektakulären Verkauf im Kontext der Kunsthandels-Szene der frühen 1920er Jahre." Con bella maniera: Festgabe für Peter Seiler zum 65. Geburtstag. Ed. Michail Chatzidakis et al. Heidelberg, 2021, pp. 511, 515 n. 89 [https://www.doi.org/10.11588/arthistoricum.855.c11071], associates the Kocherthaler mentioned in the painting's provenance with Kuno Kocherthaler.
Assistant Curator Alison Hokanson introduces a bevy of temporary loans on view in August in the nineteenth-century European Paintings galleries, as well as the first installation of all sixteen of the European Paintings department's Van Gogh paintings in several years.
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