The Seurat effect



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Seurat’s contemporaries regarded his work as cold and mechanical, in the most pejorative way. Viewers in the late nineteenth century were inclined to chastise him and his impersonal touch and mechanical figures. By the early decades of the next century that view had been almost entirely replaced, and a new understanding of Seurat had blossomed: far from representing the threat of a mechanical world, he came to embody its promise. To these critics, Seurat’s technique was perfectly suited to their own era’s embrace of technology. Yet, as the modern era has begun to take shape, a third view of the artist has become more common. Although some viewers still regard his work as mechanical or formulaic in respects, an increasing number of scholars and artists reject the idea that his work is cold and mechanical at all. The purpose of this dissertation is to explore why these varying perceptions of Seurat were formed and how each reflects on the time in which it was embraced.