Georges Seurat (French, 18591891)
Conté crayon on paper; 12 1/4 x 9 1/2 in. (31.2 x 24 cm)
Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1951; acquired from The Museum of Modern Art, Lillie P. Bliss Collection (55.21.1)
Paul Signac described Georges Seurat's penumbral conté crayon drawings as "the most beautiful painter's drawings that ever existed." This tranquil portrait of the artist's mother, shown sewing, has a seventeenth-century equivalent in Johannes Vermeer's painting The Lacemaker, which hung in the Louvre for Seurat's admiration. In pose and configuration, serenity and concentration, these domestic matrons share attributes, centuries apart. Seurat's sheet is a tour de force of modeling in conté crayon, drawn as it is entirely without line in tonal passages of velvety black. Scarce atmospheric light illuminates the interior, a device introduced by the withdrawal of crayon from the stark white paper. The sheet carries an abstract beauty in its mystery and silence. The distant self-containment of Seurat's portrait is more an expression of quiet domesticity than an evocation of family intimacy.
Collection of the Louvre, France: Johannes Vermeer, The Lacemaker
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