At the Gaîté Rochechouart (Café-concert)
Georges Seurat, French, At the Gaîté Rochechouart (Café-concert), ca. 1887-1888, Conté crayon with gouache on laid paper; 30.5 x 23.5 cm (12 x 9 5/16 inches), Gift of Mrs. Murray S. Danforth 42.210
The subject of the indoor café holds an important place in nineteenth-century French art. Starting in 1887, Georges Seurat executed several drawing of these Parisian nightspots, including the Gaite Rochechouart. Like Edgar Degas, Seurat was concerned with the effects of artificial light and its power to distort form and evoke atmosphere. By applying his conte crayon to a heavily textured paper, Seurat achieved a vibrating surface pattern of pits and ridges reminiscent of his pointillist paintings. His composition is wholly tonal, the whites created with gouache or the white of the page. Seurat’s fervent interest in tight and structured compositions, represented here by the reflective stage floor that appears exactly one-third from the bottom, is in balance with the liveliness and drama of the scene.