National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of The Lighthouse at Honfleur Georges Seurat (artist)
French, 1859 - 1891
The Lighthouse at Honfleur, 1886
oil on canvas
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.)
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon
1983.1.33
Not on View
From the Tour: Postimpressionism
Object 8 of 8

In an effort to systematize what he considered the randomness of impressionism, Seurat developed a technique he called "divisionism" or "neoimpressionism," based on thencurrent theories about the optical characteristics of color and light. He juxtaposed tiny, discrete touches of pure color that were meant to merge in the viewer's eye, producing a range of shades more luminous than intermediary colors blended on an artist's palette. His paintings attempt to mimic not what the eye sees, but what the eye does. In practice, the small touches are too large to achieve this at a normal viewing distance. Instead, they impart a shimmering, almost vibrating effect.

Seurat's aesthetic theories extended beyond appearance to encompass mood as well. The mood of a work, he held, was determined by three factors: tone, tint, and line. As he described to a friend, "Calm of tone is the equality of dark and light; of tint, equality of warm and cold; calm of line is given by the horizontal." In The Lighthouse at Honfleur, interlaced sweeps of blond colors are balanced with cooler blues and dots of bright red. Shadows and light counterpose, and a jetty reinforces the interrupted horizon. They give Seurat's seascapes what a contemporary reviewer called "calm immensity."

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