The technique developed by Seurat in the early 1880s was based on the use of the contrast between black and white to define forms. On the rough surface of laid paper, the crayon catches the raised areas and leaves the hollows white. The use of a very greasy Conte crayon gives the blacks a velvety quality and particularly appealing depth. Seurat used this technique to express his artistic sensitivity in a simple, grave style. He concentrated on the essential: making shapes loom out of interlocking areas of light and shade.
The Black Bow belongs to a series of female silhouettes against a pale or greyish background, dated about 1882. This figure, obviously the most accomplished of the set, is an early version of the elegant ladies strolling on the riverbank in Sunday at the Grand Jatte (1884-1886, Art Institute of Chicago).
The young woman seems dreamy, lost in thought. She does not have the hieratic pose of the other characters in the series. Instead, a subtle play of curves gives a gentle, flowing look to this apparently fragile body emerging from the shadow. But, in the end, it is the bow which commands the drawing. Its jagged outline, unlike the rest of her costume, and its deep black irresistibly draw the spectator's eye.
Sharply outlined against a halo of light, this bow becomes the focal point of the entire composition.