Painting in black and white

Paul Signac describes Seurat’s drawings as ‘the most beautiful drawings by a painter that exist’. This ethereal figure also makes a ‘painterly’ impression, as though the artist has formed her from the inside out with tones and contrasts in black and white. Her silhouette appears detached from the paper, almost floating. Although it is devoid of details, the drawing nonetheless has an intimate atmosphere.

Stylized characters

Seurat made a total of 42 sketches in oils and 59 drawn studies for his masterpiece A Sunday afternoon on the island of La Grande Jatte. The drawings are nearly all figure studies. It is unlikely he worked from a model; the figures he creates are more stylized characters than people of flesh and blood.


The figure in this drawing appears to be a preliminary study for the girl sitting next to the woman with a parasol in the centre of the composition. Ultimately, Seurat makes a few alterations. The girl in the painting has a ponytail with a bow, and holds a bunch of flowers in her outstretched arms. He also makes her skirt a little wider. But the line of her back, neck and the back of her head follows that of the drawing precisely.