George Seurat: who was French artist, famous paintings - and why is Google celebrating him with a Doodle?

The French painter died at just 31 years old, in 1891, with the cause of his death still remaining uncertain

Today, Thursday 2 December, Google is remembering French painter Georges Seurat with his very own Google Doodle on what would have been 162nd birthday.

This is everything you need to know about the influential artist, and why he is being celebrated with his own Google Doodle.

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Who was Georges Seurat?

Seurat was a French painter who is considered to be one of the most important post-impressionist artists.

He was known for painting with techniques like pointillism and divisionism. It was Seurat’s innovative methods which paved the way for the rise of the school of neo-impressionism, an avant-garde 19th century movement which changed the course of modern art.

Seurat was born on 2 December 1859 in Paris to father Antoine Chryssotome Seurat and mother Ernestine Faivre. He had two older siblings - brother Émile Augustin and sister Marie-Berthe.

He first began studying art with sculptor Justin Lequiene, and he attended the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1878 and 1879. Following a year of service at Brest military academy, Seurat returned to Paris in 1880 to pursue his passion of painting.

A visitor looks over Georges Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte in the Art Institute of Chicago (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

For the next two years, Seurat dedicated himself to mastering the art of black and white drawing. In 1883, he spent the year working on his first major painting, a huge canvas titled Bathers at Asnieres.

After Bathers at Asnieres was rejected by the Paris Salon, Seurat set up his own organisation with fellow artists called the Société des Artistes Indépendants. It was here that Seurat shared his new ideas about pointillism.

In the summer of 1884, Seurat began working on a two year long project which would become his masterpiece - A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.

Fans of the film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off will recognise A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte as the painting that causes Cameron to have something of an existential crisis as he stares intently into the piece of art.

Other famous paintings created by the artist includes La Seine à la Grande-Jatte, Circus Sideshow, The Eiffel Tower, Fishing in The Seine, Landscape at Saint-Ouen, Flowers in a vase and View of Fort Samson, to name a few.

When did he die?

Seurat died on 29 March 1891, in his parents’ home in Paris.

The cause of his death has remained uncertain - various diseases have been attributed to his death over the years, such as meningitis, pneumonia, infectious angina and diphtheria.

The Saint-Vincent-de-Paul church in Paris (Photo: JOEL SAGET/AFP via Getty Images)

The day after he died, a commemorative service was held in the church of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul, and he was interred the following day on 31 March 1891 at  Cimetière du Père-Lachaise.

Was he married and did he have children?

Seurat never married, however he did have a relationship with Madeleine Knobloch which he kept secret for the most part.

Knobloch was an artist’s model and can be seen portrayed in Seurat’s painting Jeune femme se poudrant (“Young woman powdering herself”).

A visitor looks at the painting Jeune femme se poudrant by Georges Seurat (Photo: FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP via Getty Images)

She moved into Seurat’s studio in 1898 and when she became pregnant, the two moved together to a new studio where she gave birth to their son on 16 February 1890, named Pierre-Georges.

It was not until two days prior to his death that he introduced Knobloch and his son to his parents.

At the time of his death in 1891, Knobloch was pregnant with their second child. The baby, whose name is unknown, died either during or shortly after birth.

What’s the Google Doodle?

The Google Doodle celebrating what would have been Seurat’s 162nd birthday uses the pointillism technique that the painter was so well known for.

It begins with the Google logo being spelled out with a number of different coloured dots.

The Google Doodle celebrating Georges Seurat (Photo: Google)

The Doodle is then slowly filled in with more multicoloured dots to eventually create his famous painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.

Google said: “[Seurat’s] monumental work has inspired countless artists across disciplines, a Broadway musical, and has even been featured in a blockbuster film.

“Here’s to an artist who never lost sight of the big picture!”

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