Georges Seurat's drawings at MoMA, which continue to haunt me now that I have seen them, trumped so much of the art that I passed leaving the museum that I couldn't bear to look at much else on exhibit (except Martin Puryear's Ladder to Booker T. Washington). This assembled gathering of over a hundred of Seurat's exquisitely crafted drawings of figures in the darkening urban twilight (and other dramatic hours) and rendered in black conté pencil on textured paper must count at the top of any exhibition of drawings I have ever seen.
On the afternoon I attended the exhibition, several visitors, including myself, brought their drawing materials with them to get a sense of Seurat's method. These drawings are so seductively tactile that I wanted to feel some of their material power and energy by attempting to copy some of his shapes and lines. Those lines! Some swirl randomly in interlocking passages, while others cross-hatch into the darkest blacks. And Seurat must be the master at what all art teachers try to explain - let the white of the paper function as the light, whether it's artificial or natural.
After leaving MoMA in the late afternoon, I had planned to take the E train back to the W. 4th station, but upon learning that the train was delayed for an indeterminate time, I decided to foot it from 53rd St. down Fifth Avenue to the Village. In the deepening twilight of a cool day, I could see the boulevardiers ahead of me, some in full-length black coats, in motion and in darkness, loosing some focus and detail. Heading home, my fresh memory of the drawings of Georges Seurat from France during the 1880s cross-hatched and blended with life in contemporary Manhattan.
Image: detail of Deux hommes marchant dans un champ (Two Men Walking in a Field) Georges-Pierre Seurat, ca.1882-1884
Georges Seurat: The Drawings continues at the Museum of Modern Art through January 7, 2008. View the online exhibition here.
See the related post: Seurat Out Walking and Drawing on an Ordinary Sunday.