Saturday, 5 December 2020

A Happy Find

Seurat's Les Poseuses is perhaps his most enigmatic work, and I've long been fascinated by it. I have a postcard-sized reproduction of it on my bedroom wall, and only last night was looking at it, wishing I had a larger image. So I was delighted when I walked into a local charity shop this morning and straight away spotted a considerably larger reproduction, evidently purchased at the centenary exhibition in Paris in 1991, but in pristine condition. There was a similar reproduction of one of Seurat's paintings of Port-en-Bessin with it, so I bought them both. 
  Les Poseuses shows the same model in three poses, which are not really 'poses'; she is off duty, sitting with her back to us, partly draped in a white robe, standing naturally with her weight on one hip and her head slightly tilted, and sitting down, pulling off (or on?) green stockings. And behind her is a part of Seurat's recently completed magnum opus, Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, the painting for which this model posed. The subject is the model herself, the nature of her work – not what she is posing as. Les Poseuses, like some medieval painting, shows three different moments in time – and, unlike almost any other painting, relates them directly to another work of art. Seurat painted it in response to critics who thought him incapable of convincingly portraying real, living human beings. I think it's safe to say he proved them wrong... The picture exists in two versions: one, the more 'granular' and obviously pointilliste, is on loan from our own National Gallery to Berlin's, and the other, more smoothly finished, hangs in the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia.

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