Musée d'Orsay: Georges Seurat The Nurse

Georges Seurat
The Nurse

The Nurse
Georges Seurat (1859-1891)
The Nurse
Conte crayon on laid paper
H. 31; W. 24 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Michèle Bellot

La nourrice [The Nurse]

The nurse and her charge is a recurrent theme in Seurat's work. He did not try to make portraits of individual women, but to catch a social type, a familiar figure in the parks and streets of Paris. The features of the nurse and the baby are indistinct but their respective identities and the relationship between them emerge clearly.
Seurat has organised the entire composition of his drawing around the play of contrasts between the black of the crayon and white of the paper. Sitting on the bench, the nurse is wearing a nurse's cap, a dark cape and pale skirt. The child is lifting an arm towards his nurse's neck. This gesture is perceived not by lines or contours but by a luminous horizontal area emerging from the grey. In the same way, we divine that the nurse is holding the child in the crook of her arm beneath her cape. The slightly paler area indicates the bulge of her arm and hand. The various masses created by variations in intensity bring the characters to life.

Seurat's technique here is different from that used in the other drawings, for example The Black Bow. The supple lines of the crayon marks are clearly visible and inextricably mingled. The artist has varied his manner of drawing but still uses the contrasts between light and shade to give each drawing its fundamental structure.

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