Everyone knows about Georges Seurat. His vision of weekend leisure on the island of La Grand Jatte has entered the public consciousness in a way that few images ever do, endlessly reproduced, co-opted for non-art uses, even turned into an operatic Broadway show. Everyone knows about the dots and just about everyone knows that the painter of the dots died young, although, I suspect, not many could tell you that Seurat’s short life ended, at the age of thirty-one, in 1891. The centennial of that sad event was commemorated, in 1991, by a retrospective seen in Paris, at the Grand Palais, and in New York, at the Metropolitan Museum. For many of us even more than fifteen years later, the show remains memorable, not only because it charted Seurat’s rapid journey from student to mature painter, nor because it raised interesting questions about just what he had achieved and where he was going with his relentless pointillist method, but because of the way...


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