Georges Seurat Drawing, ca. 1875
This is a drawing by Seurat. It was given to me by my father. I used to be a French horn player and he thought I would like it because of the brass connection. I've had it for maybe 30 years.
Georges Seurat is one of the most important artists of the 19th century. He's known in popular culture because of Sunday in the Park with George, the musical by Stephen Sondheim. But Georges Seurat is known by painting lovers as the artist who painted "Sunday Afternoon at the Grande Jatte," the masterpiece of his career, which is in the Art Institute of Chicago, probably one of the most iconic pictures of the 19th century in France. And Seurat's importance can't really be overstated. Now, this may look like a minor drawing. It's a very lovely little pen and ink done when he was very, very young. Seurat was born in 1859, and if we think of this as a relatively juvenile work and guess that perhaps he was about 15, he's such an important artist that these drawings of his youth are as important as many other works by greater artists in their prime. There are some very interesting inscriptions on the back of this in French, and I'm going to ask you if you could to just give us an idea of what these labels say.
Okay. The small label on the top says, in French, "Written by Félix Fénéon, Seurat a l'enfant, as a child, soldier playing the bombardon." And then below that it says, "This drawing of Georges Seurat, "number 531 in the collection of Félix Fénéon "came from a notebook having belonged "to the artist's brother, Emile Seurat, "and sold to Félix Fénéon, who gave it to me in 1939." And then there's a signature.
Okay, a drawing attributed to Seurat would require a great deal of research, particularly when it is a youthful drawing of this sort and not typical of his style. This is more typical of the style when he was being academically trained before he invented his revolutionary techniques of pointillism and other styles. The thing that's very exciting about this is the documentation that accompanies it. Félix Fénéon was perhaps the most important French art critic of the time. He was a great admirer of Seurat's and he coined the term neo-impressionism, actually, which is the term for the style of art that Seurat became known for. So Fénéon is an impeccable provenance for a Seurat-related piece. It then goes on to quote that letter from John Rewald. That's the signature at the bottom of the inscription you read, and John Rewald is perhaps the most prominent art historian of the impressionist artists. He wrote the definitive book on the history of impressionism. You combine all of those things with the Sterling and Francine Clark label on the bottom, which is a museum that has a fantastic collection of this kind of art, and what it says to me is this drawing is beyond reproach in terms of a family history, ownership by the most important people connected with this artist, and all of that contributes very, very much to the value. But not just the financial value, but the art historical value and the interest there would be in this drawing. It's in reasonably good condition, and it's very charming in its own right. But the documentation is what it's all about with this piece, and these drawings are quite rare. Do you have any idea where your father might have obtained this drawing?
You know, I could take some guesses. He may have been given it by John Rewald. My father had quite a lot of art objects.
So he might well have known him in New York?
Yes, he probably did.
And that would've been New York in the... In the '40s.
I would say that an auction estimate on this drawing, I think it's easy to say $7,000 to $10,000. And I think that it's hard to predict how much this drawing might sell for at auction because while it might fall in that fairly conservative range because it's a modest drawing, it might very well make more than that because it's very rare to have all of these pieces fall into place on one object.
Very nice news. That's very exciting for me to see.
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