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Howard Hodgkin on Seurat

Part 3: Caricature and Calm

What about these two small paintings, one of Gravelines, and the other a small study for Le Chahut?

Well they show very well the two different sides of his personality, the caricature and then the serious painting. But the caricature side, which you can see clearly in the study for Le Chahut, he never managed to resolve - that's why the spectators in Le Cirque are so ghastly; it's an attempt to make caricatures into something they could never be; but he's not been able to make the jump from humanity to art.

I remember the English critic R.H. Wilenski wrote about the monkey in La Grande Jatte, about how beautiful the study for it was, but in the finished painting it had acquired a self-conscious stiffness that, in an unpleasant way, anticipates Art Nouveau. It may be an over elaboration, but if you put the two things side by side, you see the point at once - self-consciousness has taken over. He's like a lyric poet who is suddenly turning into a great public orator.

Is that also the case with the colours he used?

I think his colour is mostly very beautiful, particularly when one looks at studies he made for La Grande Jatte.

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