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Head of a Young Girl

Georges Pierre Seurat (1859–1891)

French, Impressionist
ca. 1877 - 1879
30.48 cm x 25.08 cm (12 in. x 9 7/8 in.)
oil and chalk on canvas

Not on view


Head of a Young Girl is one of the few surviving works from Seurat’s student days at the École des Beaux-Arts. The sitter, who is traditionally identified as one of Seurat’s cousins, is portrayed in a somewhat odd posture, as if she has fallen asleep while sitting. The quickly executed chalk lines demarking the neckline and suggesting the ruffles of the sitter’s blouse indicate that this is probably an oil sketch, and, indeed, Hajo Düchting has written that the painting is an academic exercise in laying out highlights and shadows. Seurat first set down a preliminary drawing in chalk on yellow oil-primed canvas. Over this he sketched the figure in red underpaint, adding painted highlights in thick impasto and shadows with thinned glazes. According to Düchting, “Seurat retained considerable elements of this technique later in life, including the practice of underpainting in local colours, and the conscious evolution of the final composition through numerous sketches and studies.”

The Parisian-born Georges Pierre Seurat was admitted to the École des Beaux-Arts in 1878, but the next year he left the Academy and for the first time saw Impressionist paintings at the fourth Impressionist exhibition. This experience changed the direction of his art and began to free Seurat from formal Academic traditions. In 1883, for the first and only time, Seurat exhibited in the official Salon, but, in 1884, the Salon rejected his first large painting, which, however, was included in an exhibition held by the Société des Artistes Indépendants. It was here that Seurat became acquainted with Paul Signac, with whom he soon became a close friend and at whose instigation he began using his signature pointillist technique.

J. Carder

Cogniat, Raymond. Seurat. New York: Hyperion Press, 1953, 9.

Zervos, Christian. "Idéalisme et Naturalisme dans la Peinture Moderne." Cahiers d'Art no. 9 (1927), 307.

Apollo 10, no. 59 (November 1929), ill. facing 290.

Apollo 32, no. 187 (July 1940), ill. on cover.

Rewald, John. Georges Seurat. New York: 1943 and 1946, 81, pl. 47.

Wilenski, R. H. Seurat (1859-1891). London: 1949 and 1951, pl. 2.

de Laprade, Jacques. Seurat. Paris: 1951, 7.

deHauke, César M. Seurat et son oeuvre 1. Paris: 1961, 3, pl. 2.

Dooley, William Germain. "An Early Seurat." The Christian Science Monitor (July 8, 1972), 8, ill.

Herbert, Robert L., et al. Georges Seurat, 1859-1891. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1991, 107, pl. 74.

Carr-Gomm, Sarah. Seurat. London: Studio Editions Limited, 1993, 44-45, ill.

Düchting, Hajo. Georges Seurat, 1859-1891, The Master of Pointillism. Köln: Benedikt Taschen Verlag, 1999, 11-12, ill.

Bühl, Gudrun, editor. Dumbarton Oaks, The Collections. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection (distributed by Harvard University Press), 2008, 364f, ill.

Exhibition History
"Rétrospective Georges Seurat," Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, 12/14/1908-1/9/1909, cat. no. 1.

"Twentieth Anniversary Exhibition of the Cleveland Museum of Art, The Official Art Exhibit of the Great Lakes Exposition," Cleveland Museum of Art, 6/26/1936-10/4/1936 [not in catalogue; placed on exhibit 7/22/1936].

"Paintings and Sculptures Owned in Washington," Phillips Art Gallery, Washington, DC, 4/15/1937-30/1937, cat. no. 28.

"Seurat 1859-1891, Paintings and Drawings," Knoedler Galleries, New York, NY, 4/19/1949-5/7/1949, cat. no. 2.

"Seurat, Paintings and Drawings," The Art Institute of Chicago, 1/16/1958-3/7/1958 and The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, 3/24/1958-5/11/1958, cat. no. 9.

"Georges Seurat, 1859-1891," Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris, 4/10/1991-8/10/1991, and Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, 9/9/1991-1/12/1992, cat. no. 74.

"Georges Seurat," Kunsthaus Zürich, 10/2/2009-1/17/2010, cat. no. 2.

"French Paintings at Dumbarton Oaks (1850-1910): Collecting the Unexpected," Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, DC, 10/2/2009-5/9/2010.

"Women in Art, 1850-1910," Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, DC, 4/25/2017-3/31/2018.

Acquisition History
Collection of Léon Appert (Seurat's brother-in-law), Paris, until at least 1908-09 and probably until his death in 1925.

Collection of Léopold Appert (Léon Appert's son), Paris, 1925?-1929?.

Sold to Étienne Bignou, Paris, by 1929.

Owned jointly by Étienne Bignou, Paris, and M. Knoedler and Co., New York, NY (dealers) (no. A906), from July 1929 until 1935.

Purchased from M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York, NY (dealer), by Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, 11/10/1935.

Collection of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, Washington, DC, 11/10/1935-11/29/1940.

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, House Collection, Washington, DC.

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