Circus Sideshow

Circus Sideshow
Artist Georges Seurat
Year 1887–88
Medium Oil on canvas
Dimensions 39 1/4 x 59 in.
99.7 x 149.9 cm
Location Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

Circus Sideshow is painted with Pointillism, a technique pioneered by Seurat when he branched off from Impressionism. The painting is one of a series of six major works and has a mysterious allure. The painting is oil on canvas and the initial sketches were made during a visit by Corvi’s travelling circus during the setting up in a Parisian working class district. This was the first of Seurat’s paintings devoted to an entertainment scene.

Subjects and Technique

The painting depicts a ringmaster and musicians under the glow of twelve sparkling gaslights wearing an assortment of amusing hats while playing to an audience. This was Seurat’s first foray into nocturnal painting where he attempted to render artificial light effects at night.

The array of characters feature a trombonist wearing a cone shaped hat and the accompanying musicians play a cornet, tuba, and clarinet. The ringmaster in charge of proceedings is at the far right of the picture. The hazy artificial light links the crowd to the sideshow with soft color and shape.

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