Seurat and the avant-garde /
Paul Smith.
New Haven : Yale University Press, c1997.
x, 211 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 29 cm.
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New Haven : Yale University Press, c1997.
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references (p. 199-206) and index.
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Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Library Journal on 1998-01-01:
Smith (art history, Univ. of Bristol) argues here that Seurat's works can be seen both ideologically and aesthetically and that the "meaning" will therefore depend on the point of view. He thoroughly reviews Seurat's enterprise, drawing heavily on contemporary theory and criticism. He presents informed discussions on color theory, line, subject-matter, art movements, and politics, and he elucidates the visionary aesthetics based on Richard Wagner in the making of Seurat's paintings and the role of ideas therein. The ideas are complex and, as with much contextual art history, demand much prior knowledge on the part of the reader; but the book is well organized and the writing is clear. For advanced and specialized collections. Curator Leighton and scholar Thomson offer the catalog of a single-painting exhibition at London's National Gallery. Again, it is very clearly written, with background on Seurat's work leading up to his 1884 masterpiece, "Bather at Asnières"; detailed exposition on the technical aspects of the painting; and an accessible discussion of the artistic context for the work‘including informative illustrations and comparisons with contemporary bather subject pictures. Narrower in focus than Smith's book, but aimed at a broader audience, Seurat and the Bathers succeeds on both the popular and the scholarly level and is recommended for all collections.‘Jack Perry Brown, Art Inst. of Chicago Lib. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Appeared in Choice on 1998-02:
This more comprehensive and speculative of two recent publications on Seurat reconsiders his place within the radical ethos of his day. It presents a fresh and arresting characterization of his personality and artistic goals. The first of three topical sections treating Seurat's emergence as a creative figure disputes familiar notions of his "scientism" and anarchistic beliefs. Instead, Smith observes a general adherence to the idealist theories Seurat had encountered as a youth, sometimes accommodated to opportunistic purposes. Part 2 traces his subsequent involvements with an avant-garde then dominated by the symbolist movement, which provided him a useful epistemological framework and desirable personal status. Assumptions that he shared the symbolists' vacuous political pretentions are, however, refuted. Any symbolist traits to be inferred are seen instead as signs of the somewhat mystical, "Wagnerian" beliefs that fully evolve in Seurat's late works. Part 3 explores that visionary approach, which equated music with the better life and painting with music. Although all readers may not fully accept Smith's challenging interpretations, those prepared to follow his carefully delineated arguments will surely find the experience rewarding. Copiously documented. Recommended. Upper-division undergraduate through professional. F. A. Trapp; emeritus, Amherst College
This item was reviewed in:
Library Journal, January 1998
Choice, February 1998
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Unpaid Annotation
Georges Seurat, one of the most popular and admired of post-Impressionist painters, has been the focus of much attention in recent years. This book by Paul Smith views the artist in a new context and explodes some of the myths that have grown up about him. Challenging the assumption that Seurat's work was scientific or that it expressed a serious commitment to anarchism, Smith instead traces the painter's involvement with the various factions of the avant-garde and shows that he was perhaps the earliest exponent of Idealism in modern art.Smith studies contemporary interpretations of Impressionism and analyzes how the groups surrounding Seurat constructed meaning from his art. From this investigation he creates a portrait of Seurat as one who was willing to accept, even encourage, interpretations of his art that he may not have intended. Smith shows, for example, that the "scientific" account of Seurat's color first developed by Felix Feneon actually represents the theory and practice of Pissaro. He examines Seurat's involvement with anarchist critics and concludes that he merely posed as a painter with left-wing sympathies in order to benefit from the publicity these writers gave him. He explains that Seurat was sympathetic to Symbolism from its very inception and that he and his early Symbolist critics developed a theory of his art that was founded on Schopenhauer and Wagner's ideas on art. And he explores the ways that Seurat focused on the musicality of art and on incorporating certain "musical" features in his work. Beautifully illustrated and engagingly written, this book presents a convincing new interpretation of the work of a major artist."The book earns its touchstonestatus not only because of its thoroughness and the amount of new material Smith brings to bear on a range of problems, but also from his patient rethinking of everything that has been written on the artist until now". -- Paul
Bowker Data Service Summary
Challenging the assumption that Seurat's work was scientific, or that it expressed a serious commitment to anarchism, Smith traces the painter's involvement with the avant-garde and shows that he was perhaps the earliest exponent of Idealism in art.
Table of Contents
Introductionp. 1
The Essential Parisianp. 7
The Idea in the Linep. 11
Colour, Science and Harmonyp. 23
The Moral Subjectp. 49
The Avant-Gardep. 63
Seurat the 'Impressionist'p. 67
Symbolism in 1886p. 81
The Political Idealp. 97
'Wagnerian Painting'p. 105
The Visionary Artistp. 111
Music and the 'Better Life'p. 123
Painting as Musicp. 141
Epiloguep. 157
Appendicesp. 165
Notesp. 168
Bibliographyp. 199
Indexp. 207
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

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