Visual Descriptions

Georges-Pierre Seurat. Evening, Honfleur. 1886 78

Oil on canvas, with painted wood frame, 30 3/4 x 37" (78.3 x 94 cm) including frame. Gift of Mrs. David M. Levy

Narrator 1: 7–8 Evening Honfleur. Painted in 1886 by the French artist Georges–Pierre Seurat, 1859 – 1891. Oil on canvas, 31 inches high by 27 inches wide. 79 x 94 cm, including the frame.

Narrator 2: This picture shows a tranquil seascape bathed in the fading light of dusk. The entire painting is made from small dots no bigger than the tip of a small paintbrush, a technique developed by Seurat called Pointillism. The top two thirds of the scene is filled with a large and atmospheric pastel–colored sky, made up of pink, blue, yellow, and green, layered dots of paint.

From the upper right, four oblong, horizontal purple clouds stretch out across the sky like bands. The bottom third of the painting is divided diagonally by a beach, gently sloping from the middle left edge of the canvas to the bottom right corner of the painting. To the right is the water, painted, at first glance, sea foam green. It is in fact comprised of green, blue, yellow, white, and brown dots of paint. The sea appears calm and has a soft light dancing on its surface. The sun is hidden, possibly behind the purple clouds, but on the far right side, almost to the painting’s edge, there’s a distinct vertical white band from the horizon down, indicating the reflection of the setting sun on the water. Just below it, in the lower right corner of the painting, is a jagged black rock that sits on the shoreline.

On the far left, just above the horizon line is a partial view of green foliage, speckled with red, yellow, and blue dots. Several piers and breakwaters extend out from the beach to the rugged coastline. Pilings along their sides create a rhythmic pattern of verticals. A wooden post is visible in the foreground of the lower left corner, cropped by the left side of the painting. In the distance, just below the horizon line, one long pier extends into the water. Just beyond it, to the left of center, is a trail of smoke, likely from an unseen boat’s smokestack; and a bit farther to the left is the small triangular sail of a sailboat.

When seen up close, the imagery breaks down, dissolving into distinct yet overlapping dots of color. Seurat applied the same pointillist technique to the frame of this painting. Deep blue and red dots cover the bottom half of the frame, which then transition to brighter yellows, oranges, greens and blues near the top. The upper right corner is an especially bright and sunny yellow, as if it’s an extension of the landscape at sunset.

Narrator: To hear the Collection Tour audio on this work, press 5–3–1.

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