The Bathers at Asnieres

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Georges Seurat, The Bathers at Asnieres, 1884

Georges Seurat was most well-known for his use of pointillism. One of his most famous works of art is Sunday Afternoon on the Island of la Grande Jatte was painted in 1886. This painting created conversation, not because of the style but because of the imagery. Some people hated the painting while others loved it. The painting features wealthy looking individuals in France dressed in elaborate gowns or suits, relaxing by the river. The counterpart of the painting is what makes it interesting.

The Bathers at Asnieres, painted in 1884, opposes Sunday Afternoon and brings into question the idea of class. A boat race can be seen in the river in both paintings. This seems to link the two together and suggest that they occur at the same time. Another weird aspect of the paintings that is most likely not a coincidence, is that both works of art are exactly the same dimensions. The two works of art look remarkably similar in style and ratio, but they provoke drastically different themes. While his later painting depicts wealthy individuals relaxing in a life of leisure, the earlier painting brings the themes of poverty and unemployment to the foreground. In The Bathers at Asnieres, the three men at the front of the painting relax in the grass while two more boys wade in the river. Crumpled clothes lay underneath one of the boys, which suggest that these clothes do not require extensive caretaking. Their clothes are ill fitting and simple as opposed to the elaborate outfits of the later painting. In the background, there is a bridge and factory chimneys that blow steam, suggesting industrial technology. The men in the painting are clearly from a lower class and embody poverty.

Much like day vs. night, Seurat’s paintings oppose each other. He invites the viewer to make a connection and compare the lifestyles. While the later painting attracted much attention and conversation, its themes are dependent on The Bathers at Asnieres. The earlier painting may not have as much fame, but it is necessary in comparing the two. Seurat invokes themes of class in his two pointillism paintings of the mid-1880s.

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