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Seurat, Georges - Le Cirque

Identifier

028459

Type of Spiritual Experience

Background

Seurat participated in the 1889 Salon des Indépendants, exhibiting landscapes. He painted Signac’s portrait at this time. His residence at this point was in the Pigalle district, where he lived with his 21-year-old mistress, Madeleine Knobloch. On February 16, 1890, Madeleine presented him with a son, whom he officially acknowledged and entered in the register of births under the name of Pierre-Georges Seurat. During that year Seurat completed the painting Le Chahut, which he sent to the exhibition of the Twenty (XX) in Brussels. During that period he also painted the Jeune Femme se poudrant, a portrait of his mistress, though he continued to conceal his liaison with her even from his most intimate friends. He spent that summer at Gravelines, near Dunkirk, where he painted several landscapes and planned what was to be his last painting, Le Cirque.

As if from some sort of premonition of his impending death, Seurat showed the uncompleted Cirque at the eighth Salon des Indépendants. As an organizer of the exhibition, he exhausted himself in the presentation and hanging of the works. He caught a chill, developed infectious angina, and, before the exhibition was ended, he died on Easter Sunday 1891. On the following day Madeleine Knobloch presented herself at the town hall of her district to identify herself as the mother of Pierre-Georges Seurat. The child, who had contracted his father’s contagious illness, died April 13, 1891.

Seurat was buried in the family vault at Père Lachaise cemetery. In addition to his seven monumental paintings, he left 40 smaller paintings and sketches, about 500 drawings, and several sketchbooks. Though a modest output in terms of quantity, they show him to have been among the foremost painters of one of the greatest periods in the history of art.

Pierre Courthion - Encyclopaedia Britannica

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Emerg Infect Dis. 2005 Jan; 11(1): 162–166.   doi: 10.3201/eid1101.AD1101  PMCID: PMC3294336  PMID: 15714658       Death of Seurat   Setu K. Vora *

Madeleine Knobloch was pregnant again at the beginning of 1891. Seurat was hard at work painting The Circus. Art critic and author Arsène Alexandre, who was seeing Seurat regularly at this time, described his comings and goings, the way he climbed up the ladder and down again, how he worked long into the night. In early March, Seurat helped arrange the Indépendants exhibition, inspecting the entries and hanging the paintings. As if he had a premonition of death, he displayed his unfinished painting The Circus. He hardly noticed an ordinary sore throat that followed a cold . On March 26, he suddenly fell ill with fever and weakness. On March 27, Good Friday morning, he moved to his mother's apartment in the boulevard Magenta, supported by a friend and accompanied by pregnant Madeleine and their 13-month-old son. His illness was diagnosed as infectious angina or quinsy, and he was confined to bed. After a short crisis marked by fever and delirium, Seurat "choked to death" on Easter Sunday, March 29, at 6 a.m. His son Pierre George died of a similar illness on April 13, and was buried alongside Seurat in Père-Lachaise cemetery. Seurat's father died on May 24, cause unknown. Three generations of the Seurat family died within a span of 2 months.

Eminent biographer Jean Sutter was the first to suggest diphtheria as the cause of Seurat's death. Known variously as deadly angina, gangrenous angina, angina suffocant, and malignant angina, diphtheria was epidemic in France in the 19th century. Humans are the only known reservoir for Corynebacterium diphtheriae. The primary modes of spread are airborne droplets and direct contact with respiratory secretions. Most respiratory tract diphtheria occurs in the colder months in temperate climates and is associated with crowded indoor living conditions. After an incubation period of 2 to 4 days, signs and symptoms of inflammation can develop at various sites within the respiratory tract. Although diphtheria mainly affects children, according to William Osler, in his textbook published a year after Seurat's death, adults are also frequently affected. Osler also noted that diphtheria epidemics vary in intensity. While in some epidemics infection is mild and rarely fatal, in others it is characterized by wide extension of the pseudomembrane and tends to attack the larynx……………………….

Seurat was working extremely hard just before he became ill with sore throat. On an earlier occasion, art critic and collector Gustave Kahn saw him in the Boulevard de Clichy studio completing a big canvas "with zeal so strong and in a heat so oppressive that he lost pounds before it was finished". Signac recounted that Seurat would often have only a snack for lunch, a croissant and a bar of chocolate, so that he would not waste valuable time. The combination of acute severe exertion, poor nutrition, and grueling work could increase susceptibility for upper respiratory infection. Signac, the closest friend, follower, and champion of Seurat, was close to the truth when he sadly concluded, "Our poor friend killed himself by overwork."

A description of the experience

The source of the experience

Seurat, Georges

Concepts, symbols and science items

Science Items

Activities and commonsteps

Activities

Overloads

Being constantly criticised

Suppressions

Squash the big I am

Commonsteps

References