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Landscapes: Real and Imagined

Discover groundbreaking techniques in early modern landscape paintings.


Evening, Honfleur

Georges-Pierre Seurat
(French, 1859–1891)

1886. Oil on canvas, with painted wood frame, 30 3/4 x 37" (78.3 x 94 cm) including frame

Seurat spent the summer of 1886 in the French coastal town of Honfleur in order to, as he said, “wash the light of the studio” from his eyes. He had used his readings on optical theory to develop a technique, known as pointillism, which involved the creation of form out of small dots of color. In the viewer’s eye, these dots can both coalesce into shapes and remain separate particles, generating a magical shimmer.

He meticulously applied at least 25 colors to Evening, Honfleur in the form of thousands of dots carefully placed on the canvas. Long bands of clouds echo the horizon and the breakwaters on the beach. The vast sky and tranquil sea meet at the horizon line, bringing a sense of spacious light to the picture; up close they also have a peculiar visual density. Seurat added the wooden frame later, hand-painting it with the same technique to add greater luminosity and suggest the extension of the image past its boundaries.

A technique of painting developed by French painters Georges-Pierre Seurat and Paul Signac, in which small, distinct points of unmixed color are applied in patterns to form an image.

The method with which an artist, writer, performer, athlete, or other producer employs technical skills or materials to achieve a finished product or endeavor.

The form or condition in which an object exists or appears.

A line in works of art that usually shows where land or water converges with the sky.

The shape or structure of an object.

The perceived hue of an object, produced by the manner in which it reflects or emits light into the eye. Also, a substance, such as a dye, pigment, or paint, that imparts a hue.