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Modern Landscapes

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

The rough seas and rugged shoreline of the northern French coast had long attracted artists, including Georges-Pierre Seurat, who spent the summer of 1886 in this region in a resort town called Honfleur. He went to clear his vision, or, as he put it, to “wash the light of the studio” from his eyes. There he painted Evening, Honfleur, calming the turbulent shoreline in his peaceful sunset scene.

Seurat immersed himself in the science and study of optics, and contemporary writing on color theory, which helped him to develop the new approach to painting reflected in Evening, Honfleur. Systematic and measured, his technique involved the application of separate, distinct touches of unmixed color to form an image. In the viewer’s eye, these small points of color can both coalesce into coherent scenes and remain separate particles that seem to generate a shimmer over the composition. In reference to these dots of color, this technique became known as Pointillism.

Seurat meticulously applied at least 25 colors to Evening, Honfleur in thousands of individual dots. Long bands of clouds echo the horizon and the breakwaters on the beach. Sky and sea fill most of the composition, giving it a sense of vastness. Seurat added the wooden frame to his painting later, hand-painting it with the same Pointillist technique to suggest the extension of the image past the boundaries of the canvas. In the frame’s upper-right corner, the dots grow lighter, extending the glow of the setting sun.

A representation of a person or thing in a work of art.

A setting for or a part of a story or narrative.

A work of art made from paint applied to canvas, wood, paper, or another support (noun).

A closely woven, sturdy cloth of hemp, cotton, linen, or a similar fiber, frequently stretched over a frame and used as a surface for painting.

A painting technique developed by French artists 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.

A combination of pigment, binder, and solvent (noun); the act of producing a picture using paint (verb, gerund).

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

The arrangement of the individual elements within a work of art so as to form a unified whole; also used to refer to a work of art, music, or literature, or its structure or organization.

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.

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Evening, Honfleur

Georges-Pierre Seurat (French, 1859–1891)