0043 The Death of Georges Seurat: Neo-Impressionism and the Fate of the Avant-Garde in 1891

  • Marnin Young (Author)
    Stern College for Women, Yeshiva University, New York, USA

    Marnin Young is assistant professor of Art History at Stern College for Women of Yeshiva University. Having received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, he is currently completing a book on the representation of time in late nineteenth-century European painting. In 2008, a portion of this project appeared in The Art Bulletin under the title "Heroic Indolence: Realism and the Politics of Time in Jean-François Raffaëlli's Absinthe Drinkers." The article subsequently received the Arthur Kingsley Porter Prize from the College Art Association. Young has also published in Afterimage: The Journal of Media Arts and Cultural Criticism, at nonsite.org, and in Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide: A Journal of Nineteenth-Century Visual Culture.

Identifiers (Article)


This essay examines the critical and artistic responses to the death of Georges Seurat in 1891. While some at the time saw the avant-garde divided between scientifically-oriented neo-impressionism and mystical symbolism, the posthumous understanding of Seurat's work increasingly collapsed the two categories. In particular, the neo-impressionist embrace of the aesthetic of Charles Henry, in which compositional lines produced predictable effects on the viewer, made it possible to see Seurat's paintings in purely formal, indeed idealist, terms. The neo-impressionist avant-garde consequently struggled to define its distinctive nature over the course of the year, with important consequences for later art.


Paul Signac, Georges Seurat, Camille Pissarro, Maurice Denis, Félix Fénéon, neo-impressionism, symbolism, avant-garde, Charles Henry, Rezeption