The Stone Breakers, Le Raincy
Artist: George-Pierre Seurat
Medium: oil on canvas
Dimensions: 37.5 x 45.4 cm
Museum where found: Norton Simon Art Foundation
Dancers in the Wings
Artist: Edgar Degas
Medium: Pastel, Gouache, and on paper mounted on board
Museum: Norton Simon Art Foundation
Dimension: 69.2 x50.2 cm
The two paintings that I will be discussing in my paper are The Stone Breakers, Le Raincy (1882) by George-Pierre Seurat and Dancers in the Wings (1876-1878) by Edgar Degas. In both paintings, Seurat and Degas applied the idea “modernity leisure” into their paintings but in very different subject matters. The distinctive style of brushstroke, composition and choice of color scheme in combination with the optical will purpose to bring completely different feelings to the audience.
In Seurat’s painting, there are three human figures standing as the primary subject. The three figures are identified as peasants work in the field of the suburban, breaking large stones into smaller pieces for further use as materials to pave streets or as a way of removing stones from the field to grow crops. From the painting, two of the workers are women, who come into the field to join their husbands as a way of earning a living. The pile of rocks is built up in the middle ground of the painting while the green rectangular block that is parallel to the horizon in the background represents the woods.
In Degas’s painting, there are two human figures. The two young female dancers are in the backstage before a performance. Instead of capturing the dancers during the performance, Degas decides to capture them while they are behind the scene. There are no eye contacts between the figures and the painter, showing that the posture was not focused in any way. He depicted what happened in Paris after Haussmannization of the city. The painter had claimed the dancer as being part of the modern culture. The number of hotels, cafes, theater and dance halls, etc. have increased, it had become where Parisian take leisure time and entertainment. In contrast to what is happening on Degas’s canvas, Seurat painted the hard-working labor that is happening in the countryside. They both chose a subject that depicts what life in modernism is like.
Degas use of the technique in the composition is applying diagonal perspective. Degas’s painting is organized against symmetry as a significance of anticlassical style. This is depicted on the right edge crops off by the dancer that is dressed in yellow. The oblique line starting from the lower left corner leads the audiences’ eye to the dancer that is dressed in pink. The dancer dressed in pink positioned in the back is partially blocked by the dancer on the right. Degas’ use of fragmentation is created through the tilted perspective capturing the scene from a different angle and slicing the dancer off the frame. The angled perspective replaced the classic style where there is centering. On the other hand, Seurat demonstrates “flatness” in his painting. In addition, that which is evident from both paintings is the absence of vanishing point that represents the divine metaphor to God.
Seurat and Degas use different scheme of colors in their painting since users of complementary color brings out the color to human eyes and Degas uses supplementary color such as yellow and orange together, red and pink together with a mixture of white to bring luminous color to the painting. We can see that Degas used a grayish green color in the background that is dark, which contrasts with the dancers’ dress color. In Seurat’s painting, he arranged complementary color next to each other, which makes the color more vivid. For example, the woman on the right has a dark persimmon color used on her hands, and she is wearing blue, and the edge of her dress is a greenish color. Both the blue and greenish color echoes the red that creates a high contrast that vibrates each other. The man at the back also has dark persimmon color on his hands, which echoes the woods in the background. Even the woods that have some dried brownish leaves complements the green. Throughout the whole painting, Seurat has used this technique to create an impression of very hardworking men and women in the community. Finally, Seurat creates the paintings with divisionism, dividing the brush strokes into little dabs and broken strokes.