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Georges-Pierre Seurat, 1859-1891

Two Men Walking in a Field

Description:Read An Essay On This Drawing

Drawing played an important role throughout Georges Seurat's career. He produced his first serious attempts in the mid-1870s, when he was studying at a municipal art school near his home in Paris. This early work consisted mostly of copies after classical sculpture and Old Master paintings. By the end of the decade, after he entered Henri Lehmann's class at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, he started to create his first freely conceived pencil compositions, often featuring silhouetted figures seen from behind or from oblique views. A yearlong stint in the military in 1879 ended his formal artistic training, and upon his return to Paris he became even more preoccupied with drawing. Within a short time, he formed his mature style, in which he placed intertwined strokes of conté crayon onto laid Michallet paper (a high-quality paper).

The present work dates from this period, when he revealed himself as a master of black and white. With his distinctive style of drawing, he created a wide variety of tones, ranging from dense black to subtle gray to white. Here he has used the inherent properties of the highly textured paper and the greasy crayon to full advantage, filling the entire page with interlaced strokes of various shades of velvet black and gray, and allowing the bright white color of the paper to shine through in small areas where the crayon had not reached the furrows of the surface. The controlled nature of drawing of the two figures and the landscape elements is contrasted with the exuberant swirls and lines of crayon used in the immediate foreground and along the edges of the work. As in other drawings of this period, Seurat has used the technique of irradiation, where the dark tone seen against a lighter background (or the reverse) will look even darker (or lighter) on a toned background.

The composition has a somewhat somber and mysterious mood, partially influenced by the depiction of twilight, a time of day that Seurat favored in his drawings. The artis's long-standing interest in the silhouetted figure enveloped in sfumato is apparent here. The man in the background, standing with the help of a cane, watches as the figure in the foreground walks away from him and toward the viewer. Both men seem isolated in their surroundings, distilled to pure symbols of humanity. Nicholas Wadley has suggested that the subject could be a depiction of the conflict between agrarian and urban life, an issue that the artist was exploring in his work at this time.1 However, both men appear to be dressed in urban clothing and may be members of the bourgeoisie. Moreover, unlike his artistic hero Jean-François Millet (cat. nos. 83 and 84), who championed the peasant and celebrated agrarian life in his works, Seurat was more open and accepting of the increasing industrialization and modernization of the French landscape. Katy Rothkopf

1. N. Wadley, Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Drawing (London, 1991), 284.

Medium: Black cont? crayon on cream, medium-weight, moderately textured laid paper
Dimensions: Sheet: 318 x 243 mm. irregular.
Date: ca. 1882-1884
Category: genre
Subject: Field Man Walking
Alternate Title: Deux hommes marchant dans un champ
Inscriptions and Markings: VERSO: UC, graphite, 'de Seurat / F'.
Exhibition History: John Leighton and Richard Thomson, London, National Gallery of Art, 'Seurat and the Bathers', July 2-Sept. 28, 1997, p. 156, no. 30, ill. p. 16. The Baltimore Museum of Art, 'Matisse, Picasso and Friends: Masterworks on Paper from the Cone Collection', June 7-Aug. 27, 1995; circulated to Cleveland Museum of Art, Dec. 3, 1996-Jan. 26, 1997; Seattle Art Museum, Feb. 25-April 20, 1997; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, May 18-July 13, 1997. Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, 'Masterpieces from the Cone Collection of The Baltimore Museum', October 1991-92. Baltimore Museum of Art, 'Master Drawings by French Artists in the Museum's Collection', May 14-July 23, 1989. Erich Franz and Bernd Growe, Kunsthalle, Bielefeld, Germany, 'Georges Seurat: Zeichnungen', Oct. 10-Dec. 25, 1983, p. 60, 185, no. 38; circulated to Staatliche Kunsthalle, Baden-Baden, Jan. 15-March 11, 1984; Kunsthaus, Z?rich, March 23-May 13, 1984. Victor Carlson and Carol Hynning Smith, The Baltimore Museum of Art, 'Master Drawings and Watercolors of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries', Aug. 1979-Aug. 1980, p. 66, no. 26, ill. p. 67; circulated by the American Federation of Arts. New York, Wildenstein, 'Cone Collection from the Baltimore Museum of Art', March 29-May 11, 1974. The Baltimore Museum of Art, 'From Ingres to Gauguin', Nov.-Dec. 1951, p. 43, no. 163, ill. p. 43. The Baltimore Museum of Art, 'A Century of Baltimore Collecting: 1840-1940', June 6-Sept. 1, 1941, p. 113.
Bibliography: The International Review published by The Drawing Society, Vol. XVII, No.1, May - June 1995, p.5, ill. Ted Rose, Discovering Drawing, Worcester, Mass.: Davis Publications, 1995, p. 205. Nicholas Wadley, Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Drawing, London: Laurence King, 1991, p. 284-85, ill. no. 101. Alain Madeleine-Pedrillat, Seurat, Geneva: Albert Skira, 1990, p. 41. Brenda Richardson, The Cone Collection of The Baltimore Museum of Art, 1985, p. 190, 202, ill. p. 191. Sarane Alexandrian, Seurat, New York: Crown Publishers, 1980, p. 14, 15, 27. Baltimore Museum of Art, Paintings, Sculpture and Drawings in the Cone Collection, 1967, no. 329, p. 75, ill. p. 60. John Russell, Seurat, New York: Praeger, 1965, p. 102, no. 97. 'The Contents', The Baltimore Museum of Art News: The Cone Wing (1957), p. 8. Baltimore Museum of Art, Cone Collection, 1955, ill. p. 56. A Picture Book: 200 Objects in The Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, 1955, ill. p. 56.
Provenance: BMA by bequest, 1950; Etta Cone (1870-1949), Baltimore, 1937(?); Countess Girard (?).
Collection: The Baltimore Museum of Art
Credit Line: The Baltimore Museum of Art: The Cone Collection, formed by Dr. Claribel Cone and Miss Etta Cone of Baltimore, Maryland
Object Number: BMA 1950.12.664