Madame Seurat, the Artist's Mother (Madame Seurat, mère)

Object Details


Madame Seurat, the Artist's Mother (Madame Seurat, mère)


Georges Seurat (French, 1859 - 1891)




about 1882 - 1883


Conté crayon


30.5 x 23.3 cm (12 x 9 3/16 in.)

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Though Georges Seurat created many portraits of his mother, none have the arresting sense of calm and simplicity seen in this drawing. Here, he filled almost the entire sheet with Madame Seurat's face. Her downcast eyes create an aura of modesty, and suggest that she is involved in a quiet activity such as reading or embroidery. She is plain, though not severe, with pulled back bun and slightly thick features--an unassuming motherly personage, apparently unaware that she is being observed. The drawing possesses an almost mystical aura, combining extreme intimacy and proximity with the equally extreme interiority of the sitter's facial expression. Her puzzling physical presence and psychological stillness is made all the more vaporous and ghostly by the drawing technique Seurat called "irradiation," which avoided distinct lines and represented the subtleties of light and shadow through tones of black crayon.

The drawing was surely full of meaning for mother and son. Even after Georges Seurat moved to his own quarters in 1880, he dined with his mother almost every night. Their close relationship and frequent contact meant that he did not need to look far for a subject with whom he was intimately acquainted. Seurat gave this drawing to his mother.


Madame Ernestine Seurat (née Faivre), Paris


Lucien Pissarro, Paris and (later) London, 1863 - 1944, [by gift]

Madame Esther Pissarro (née Bensusan), 1870 - 1951, [by inheritance]

November 1949

John Rewald, 1912 - 1994, [by gift]


Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Lewyt, [purchase]

Private Collection, (consigned for sale to Wildenstien & Co., Inc., New York)

Casting Characters: Portraits and Studies of Heads (November 4, 2003 to February 1, 2004)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), November 4, 2003 to February 1, 2004
Defining Modernity: European Drawings 1800-1900 (June 5 to September 9, 2007)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), June 5 to September 9, 2007
Georges Seurat: The Drawings (October 23, 2007 to January 7, 2008) (37)
  • The Museum of Modern Art (New York), October 23, 2007 to January 7, 2008
Ten Years of Drawings: What, How, and Why (January 29 to May 4, 2008) (37)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), January 29 to May 4, 2008