By 1877 art student Seurat had advanced from copying ancient sculptures and casts to drawing from live models at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Nude Study of an Old Man was probably drawn from life, but the model is very different from the standard, muscular male nudes who appear in sketches by Seurat and other academic pupils from this period. His aged body, long beard, and topknot have led some observers to identify him as an elderly Indian man but the drawing yields few clues to his actual identity. The same model is depicted in Émile-Jules Pichot Nude Study of an Old Man (2016.81), likely also completed during a life drawing course at the École. In the years to follow, Seurat abandoned traditional styles and became known for pioneering pointillism.
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