Models (painting)

Models, also known as The Three Models and Les Poseuses, is a work by Georges Seurat, painted between 1886 and 1888 and held by the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia. Models was exhibited at the fourth Salon des Indépendants in spring of 1888.[1]

The Three Models
Georges Seurat - Models (Poseuses) - BF811 - Barnes Foundation.jpg
ArtistGeorges Seurat Edit this on Wikidata
Mediumoil paint, canvas
Movementpointillism, Post-Impressionism Edit this on Wikidata
Dimensions200 cm (79 in) × 249.9 cm (98.4 in)
CollectionBarnes Foundation Edit this on Wikidata
Accession No.BF811 Edit this on Wikidata

The piece, the third of Seurat's six major works, is a response to critics who deemed Seurat's technique inferior for being cold and unable to represent life.[2] As a response, the artist offered a nude depiction of the same model in three different poses. In the left background is part of Seurat's 1884-1886 painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.

Models is considered distinctive because of its pointillist technique and the political implications of its depiction of the nude female body.

Seurat's LifeEdit

Georges-Pierre Seurat was the third child of Ernestine Faivre and Antoine-Chrysostome Seurat. He was born in Paris on 2 December 1859 into a bourgeois family. He entered in the École des Beaux-Arts in 1878. He then studied under Henri Lehman. He, along with artists such as Paul Signac, Albert Dubois-Pilllet, and Odilon Redon were responsible for the Salon des Indépendents, which they established as an alternative to the state-sponsored Salon exhibitions.[3]

Seurat is best-known for A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, 1884, which was displayed in 1886 at the final Impressionist exhibition and subsequently exhibited at the Salon des Indépendents. The painting is known to be the start of Neo-Impressionist movement. Seurat is also praised for his technique of pointillism which in an almost scientific manner breaks the paint surface into dots of color that blend together when seen from afar.  

Pointillism and Color TheoryEdit

Models is a notable example of Pointillism, which refers to painting through a series of colored dots that together make up an image.[4]

In an article written by Norma Broude in the Art Bulletin, she compares Pointillism to photo printing in the 1880s France. Though not the same, there are large similarities in the results given the preoccupation with color theory and the meticulously planning of paint application in pointillism.[5] In his works, Seurat adopted the approach to replicate the luminosity and tones found in nature.[6] Seurat's faith in color science, use of bright colors, and mechanical brush strokes are characteristic of Neo-Impressionism.[7]

Les PoseusesEdit

Seurat painted two versions of Les Poseuses. The smaller of the two is more in accord with the divisionism technique that Seurat had invented, and favoured by Seurat specialists. This version is on the cover of the catalogue for the 1991 Seurat exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.[8] Though the painting once belonged to the merchant Heinz Berggruen, it is now part of the collection of the Paul Allen estate.[9][10] In 1947, at the sale of the collection of Félix Fénéon, an early advocate and promoter of Seurat, France acquired studies for the painting that now reside in the Musée d'Orsay.[11][12][13]

Painted between 1886 and 1888, Les Poseuses was Seurat’s response to criticism of his painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Critics at the time had claimed that the painting did not depict figures with sufficient realism. Les Poseuses has sometimes been interpreted as a response to this criticism, and the inclusion of A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte in the composition serves to connect the works.[14] The incorporation of the earlier canvas within the picture also serves to make clear that the models are seen in the setting of the studio.

Les Poseuses roughly translate as "the posers," and the typical English translation of the title as "Models" obscures some of its original meaning. The title establishes a contrast with the subject of the painting, in which models appear to be off duty, not in the process of posing. Seurat painted the figures without idealizing them. By showing the banal realities of their work as models, he heightens the sense of their realness.[15] They are not models in the sense of muses, but they are women who are earning money. Scholars have suggested that this approach complicates the traditional way that women have been objectified in painting.[16]

The large size of the painting also challenged long-standing art historical traditions. In academic painting, larger canvases were typically reserved for history paintings, which aimed to depict mythological, religious, or historical scenes and events. Genre paintings, which tended to represent scenes of daily life, were usually smaller in scale. Seurat enlarged a banal and casual scene to the dimensions of a history painting, thereby subverting the traditional hierarchy.[17]

The women's poses may also allude to earlier and widely-recognized paintings, such as Édouard Manet's 1863 Luncheon on the Grass or Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres's 1808 The Valpinçon Bather.[17]

Furthermore, the English art critic Waldemar Januszczak believes this painting breaks the fourth wall, offering a glimpse into the poser who is the original source of the women depicted in A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte.



  1. ^ Rewald 1943, p. 79.
  2. ^ Peter Russell (20 December 2019). Delphi Complete Paintings of Georges Seurat (Illustrated). Delphi Classics. pp. 118–. ISBN 978-1-913487-01-0.
  3. ^ Herbert, Robert L. (1991). Georges Seurat (1859-1891). New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. pp. 11–14, 375–382.
  4. ^ Chu, Petra ten-Dpesschate (2003). Nineteenth- Century European Art. Prentice Hall Inc. and Harry N. Abrams. pp. 400–401. ISBN 0-13-045736-1.
  5. ^ Broude, Norma (1974). "New Light on Seurat's "Dot": Its Relation to Photo-Mechanical Color Printing in France in the 1880's". The Art Bulletin. 56 (4): 581–589. doi:10.2307/3049304. ISSN 0004-3079. JSTOR 3049304.
  6. ^ IRESON, NANCY (2010). "The pointillist and the past: three English views of Seurat". The Burlington Magazine. 152 (1293): 799–803. ISSN 0007-6287. JSTOR 25769879.
  7. ^ Tate. "Neo-impressionism – Art Term". Tate. Retrieved 2020-11-24.
  8. ^ Herbert & Cachin 1991, p. cover, iv.
  9. ^ Koldehoff, Stefan (2011-11-15). "Geld spielt hier keine Rolle". DIE WELT (in German). Retrieved 2018-11-01.
  10. ^ Allen, Paul G. (2012-10-25). "Objects of My Affection". WSJ. Retrieved 2018-11-01.
  11. ^ "Poseuse de dos". Musée d'Orsay (in French). 2009-02-16. Retrieved 2018-11-04.
  12. ^ "Poseuse de face". Musée d'Orsay (in French). 2009-02-16. Retrieved 2018-11-04.
  13. ^ "Poseuse de profil". Musée d'Orsay (in French). 2009-02-16. Retrieved 2018-11-04.
  14. ^ Aichele, K. Porter (1989). "Seurat's "Les Poseuses" in the Context of French Realist Literature". Nineteenth-Century French Studies. 17 (3/4): 385–396. ISSN 0146-7891. JSTOR 23532466.
  15. ^ Nochlin, Linda (March 1994). Body Politics: Seurat's Poseuse. New York: Art in America. pp. 71–124.
  16. ^ Januszczak, Waldemar. "The Art Mysteries with". ZCZ Films. BBC.
  17. ^ a b "Barnes Collection Online — Georges Seurat: Models (Poseuses)". Barnes Collection Online — Georges Seurat: Models (Poseuses). Retrieved 2021-12-09.


  • Aichele, K. Porter (1989). "SEURAT'S "LES POSEUSES" IN THE CONTEXT OF FRENCH REALIST LITERATURE". Nineteenth-Century French Studies. 17(3/4): 385–396. ISSN 0146-7891.
  • Broude, Norma (1974). "New Light on Seurat's "Dot": Its Relation to Photo-Mechanical Color Printing in France in the 1880's". The Art Bulletin. 56 (4): 581–589 ISSN 0004-3079.
  • Distel, Anne (1992) [1991]. Seurat (in French). Paris: Ed. du Chêne. ISBN 9782851087119. OCLC 463717128, 935582389.
  • Dorra, Henri; Rewald, John (1959). Seurat : L'oeuvre peint, biographie et catalogue critique (in French). Les Beaux-Arts. OCLC 873288696.
  • Hauke, César M. de; Seurat, Georges (1962). Seurat et son oeuvre; [catalogue] (in French). Gründ. OCLC 1266200.
  • Herbert, Robert L.; Cachin, Françoise (1991). Georges Seurat, 1859-1891. New York, NY: Metropolitan Museum of Art : Distributed by Abrams. ISBN 9780870996184. OCLC 23870062.
  • Herbert, Robert (2001). Seurat : drawings and paintings. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300071313. OCLC 45002103.
  • IRESON, NANCY (2010). "The pointillist and the past: three English views of Seurat". The Burlington Magazine. 152(1293): 799–803. ISSN 0007-6287.
  • Kostka, Alexandre (2000). "Two ladies vanishing : die "Poseuses" von Georges Seurat in der Sammlung Harry Graf Kessler; Kunsttransfer als Teilrezeption". In Fleckner, Uwe; Schieder, Martin; Zimmermann, Michael F (eds.). Jenseits der Grenzen. französische und deutsche Kunst vom Ancien Régime bis zur Gegenwart : Thomas W. Gaehtgens zum 60. Geburtstag 1 1 (in German). Köln: DuMont. ISBN 9783770153411. OCLC 886754027.
  • Madeleine-Perdrillat, Alain (1990). Seurat. Rizzoli. ISBN 9780847812868. OCLC 886215932.
  • Nochlin, Linda (March 1994). "Body politics : Seurat's "Poseuses" (PDF). Art in America. Art Media Holdings (3): 71–79. ISSN 0004-3214. OCLC 959051968.
  • Rewald, John (1943). "Georges Seurat". Translated by Abel, Lionel. New York: Wittenborn and Co. OCLC 561921719. Retrieved 2018-10-23.
  • Rich, Daniel Catton (1958), Seurat - paintings and drawings, Art Institute of Chicago, OCLC 313002001, Art Institute of Chicago, January 16 - March 7, 1958; the Museum of Modern Art, New York, March 24 - May 11, 1958
  • Tate. "Neo-impressionism – Art Term". Tate. Retrieved 2020-11-24.

External linksEdit