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The Stone Breakers, Le Raincy, c. 1882

Georges-Pierre Seurat

French, 1859-1891
Oil on canvas
14-3/4 x 17-7/8 in. (37.5 x 45.4 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

On view

Born into a wealthy Parisian family and thus able to pursue his art career quite comfortably, Georges-Pierre Seurat became one of the most innovative artists of the nineteenth century. Indeed, Seurat was so keen on developing a unique personal style that he refused to exhibit (and often destroyed) any work that did not reflect a step toward this goal. The Stone Breakers, Le Raincy presents hints of his artistic evolution, in both subject matter (working-class laborers) and technique (using flecks of seemingly unrelated color to arrive at a scientifically triangulated result). It was this scientific approach to color, ultimately called Pointillism, for which Seurat would become best known. In this painting, the punishing work of breaking stone, performed by prisoners and rural laborers alike, is reinforced by Seurat’s frenetic application of paint, and each brushstroke seems to stand for the structure of each rock these stooped laborers must break apart.

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