For French painter Georges-Pierre Seurat, the language of life was color. Throughout his short yet impactful career, he worked tirelessly to embody this language in his paintings and achieve harmony between art, science, and the emotions of the human heart.
However, before he had even begun to reach his prime, he was struck down by a sudden and mysterious illness, resulting in his death. There have been several suggestions for the exact cause, but the circumstances surrounding his death are not clearly understood and deserve further examination.
He may have died too soon, but his spirit remains within his beautiful paintings. Paintings such as The Bathers at Asnières and A Sunday Afternoon on la Grande Jette are just two of Georges Seurat artworks that celebrate his life and far outweigh his death. Let’s learn about George Seurat and his mysterious death.
They Say the Good Die Young
On March 21st, 1891, Georges Seurat painter was pronounced dead. After some bouts of acute yet brief illness, he passed away in Paris in his parent’s home at just 31. However, the cause of death has never been entirely determined.
His death was a significant blow to the art community, as all agreed that he had much more to contribute and many masterpieces still ahead of him. In truth, he was only scratching the surface of his newly founded style and unique abilities.
There can be no doubt that Georges Seurat was taken long before his time. However, it is interesting that many other artists and figures of great talent seem to pass away before old age. Perhaps the saying is true; That the candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long.
Cause of Death Unknown
Although the cause of his death has never been fully resolved, it is commonly speculated that he died from either meningitis, pneumonia, infectious angina, or a combination of the three. Whatever the case may be, it must have been a harrowing affair.
Some have also considered that his death may have been caused by lead poisoning, as this has been the fate of many artists over the years. However, this theory has since been debunked as artists began moving away from lead paint by the 19th century.
His death may have been sudden and tragic, but as a result, it is his fantastic artwork that is remembered above all else. His tenure on this planet may have been cut short, but his paintings and artwork and those he inspired will live on forever.
Tragedy Comes in Threes
Unfortunately for the great Georges Seurat and his family, the tragedy did not end at just his death. Tragedy would soon rear its ugly head again, as just two weeks later, his son, Pierre Georges, also died from the same disease he did.
The sudden sickness was said to have carried both father and son to the grave in just a few short hours of contraction. The two were buried alongside one another in Pére-Lachaise cemetery. Furthermore, Seurat’s father would also pass away just one month later, meaning that three generations of Seurat were wiped out in less than two months.
If all that wasn’t bad enough, tragedy would soon strike once more a short time later. This time, Seurat’s newborn son would be taken too soon from this world, leaving the artist and his name heirless.
Instead of focusing on all the misery associated with his demise, it should serve as a stark reminder and inspiration to live fully today because tomorrow, you may be nothing.
The Circus, The last painting
Up until his death, Georges Seurat had been hard at work. In 1889 he moved in with his mistress Madeline Knoblech, whom he wonderfully portrayed in his portrait of her entitled Jeune Femme se Poudrant.
With the birth of his son soon after and the success of his exhibition, Seurat seemed as motivated as ever. His friend Arséne Alexandre noted how he had seen Seurat several times working late into the night creating some famous artworks.
He worked diligently on his final painting, The Circus, in early March. As if as a premonition of his death, he even displayed it as part of his exhibition despite it being unfinished. The painting fits Seurat’s groundbreaking theories on color and emotion and can be seen as a harmonious culmination of his life’s work and ideas.
Legends Never Die
While his life was brief, his fingerprint on art remains strong. He may not have had any surviving heirs, but his paintings can be seen as his legacy, his children, and his enduring gift to the world.
Many artists also owe a great deal of debt to the innovative painter. Not only did he find both the pointillist and neo-impressionist movements, but he also inspired many of his contemporaries and paved the way for future generations, new ideas, and new styles of art to emerge.
Neo-Impressionism succeeded in adapting both a scientific and mathematical approach to the expansion of color. Still, it also succeeded in revolutionizing art and bringing it forward into the modern age. This is perhaps Seurat’s most outstanding achievement.
A Truly Remarkable Existence
In the end, Georges Seurat will be remembered forever and live on through the beauty of his work. Georges Seurat drawings and paintings transcended his death and proved that if a person can live on even after they die, they were indeed something remarkable. May he rest in peace.