Overview

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.

Inscription

lower left: Seurat

Marks and Labels

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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) 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.

Exhibition History

1903
XVI Ausstellung der Vereinigung Bildender Künstler Österreichs Secession Wien: Entwinklung des Impressionismus in Malerei u. Plastik, Vienna, 1903, no. 116.
1910
Manet and the Post-Impressionists, Grafton Galleries, London, 8 November 1910-15 January 1911, no. 55.
1929
First Loan Exhibition, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1929, no.60, repro.
1931
The Landscape in French Painting, M. Knoedler and Co., New York, 1931, no. 27, repro.
1934
Renoir - Cezanne and their Contemporaries, Alex. Reid and Lefevre, Ltd. (The Lefevre Galleries), London, 1934, no. 34, repro.
1966
French Paintings from the Collections of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon and Mrs. Mellon Bruce, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1966, no. 143, repro
1980
Post-Impressionism: Cross-Currents in European and American Painting 1880-1906, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1980, no. 89, repro.
1986
Gifts to the Nation: Selected Acquisitions from the Collections of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1986, unnumbered checklist
1986
The New Painting: Impressionism 1874-1886, National Gallery of Art, Washington; The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 1986
1987
The Aura of Neo-Impressionism: The Holliday Collection, Indianapolis Museum of Art; High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA, 1986-1987 [Atlanta only]
1990
Französische Impressionisten und ihre Wegbereiter aus der National Gallery of Art, Washington und dem Cincinnati Art Museum, Neue Pinakothek, Munich, 1990, no. 65, repro.
1991
Georges Seurat 1859-1891, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1991-1992,
1999
An Enduring Legacy: Masterpieces from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1999-2000, no cat.
2007
Georges Seurat: The Drawings. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2007, no. 121, repro.
2009
Georges Seurat: Figures in Space, Kunsthaus Zürich, 2009-2010, no. 57, repro.
2011
Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The National Art Center, Tokyo; Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, 2011, no. 47, repro.

Bibliography

1933
Neugass, Fritz. "Jubiläumsschau in der National-Galerie in Washington." Weltkunst XXXVI, no. 8 (15 April 1966): 335, repro.
1936
Bulliet, C. J. The Significant Moderns and Their Pictures. New York, 1936: repro. no. 24.
1959
Dorra, Henri and John Rewald. Seurat. Paris, 1959:no. 168, repro.
1966
Goldwater, Robert. "The Glory that was France." Art News 65 (March 1966): 85, repro. 48.
1966
Kuh, Katherine. "Golden Loans for a Silver Anniversary." Saturday Review (19 March 1966): repro. p. 49.
1966
Young, Mahonri Sharp. "The Mellon Collections: The Great Years of French Painting." Apollo 83 (June 1966): 433, repro. 430.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 512, no. 768, color repro.
1985
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 372, repro.
1987
Kennedy, Brian. "Sir Alfred Chester Beatty and the NGI." Irish Arts Review 4, no. 1 (1987):45, repro.
1990
Französische Impressionisten und ihre Wegbereiter aus der National Gallery of Art, Washington und dem Cincinnati Art Museum, Exh. cat. Neue Pinakothek, Munich, 1990: no. 65, repro.
1991
Grenier, Catherine. Seurat: Catalogue complet des peintures. Paris, 1991: no. 177, repro.
1991
Kopper, Philip. America's National Gallery of Art: A Gift to the Nation. New York, 1991: 277, 279, color repro.
1992
National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 197, repro.
1995
Zimmermann, Michael F. "Die 'Erfindung' Pieros und seine Wahlverwandtschaft mit Seurat." Studies in the History of Art 48 (1995): 286-287, repro. no. 13.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 392-393, no. 327, color repro.

Conservation Notes

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