Seurat's Circus Sideshow:  One Painting With A Sideshow Of Its Own At The MET

Seurat's Circus Sideshow: One Painting With A Sideshow Of Its Own At The MET

Seurat's Circus Sideshow:  One Painting With A Sideshow Of Its Own At The MET

Fernand Pelez's "Grimaces and Misery" a 4 paneled gargantuan work not likely to make it in your condo's elevator almost steals the show from Seurat.

One painting does not make an exhibit. With the help of 50 other institutions and collectors from around the world the MET has assembled a host of preparatory drawings, paintings by peers including Paul Signac, an early work by Pablo Picasso and some Honore Daumier's as well as vintage posters and film footage enriching the allure in an attempt to spell out and reveal the themes addressed in the Circus Sideshow painted by Georges Seurat from 1887-8 in a unique post-impressionist style pictured below.

Seurat's Circus Sideshow:  One Painting With A Sideshow Of Its Own At The METSeurat has done a no-no in painting. He has placed the main figure in the dead center of the work. These leads to a stilted composition, freezing movement and flattening the canvas. Indeed this was his goal and gives the works it's solemn mood and frozen music.

Among the many themes delved into deeply by both Susan Alyson Stein and Richard Thomson, the astute curators , the former hailing from the MET and the latter coming from across the pond in a green-hilled Scotland, the multi-foci exhibit from this one masterwork includes representation of urban settings, Parisian fairs, clowns, musical instruments, melancholy, stillness and the scientific study of the effects of color and line. Yet, Seurat is unique and any attempt at bringing this too young to be dead at 32 fellow in line with other artists seems futile.

Seurat's Circus Sideshow:  One Painting With A Sideshow Of Its Own At The METSeurat's Circus Sideshow:  One Painting With A Sideshow Of Its Own At The MET

Seurat stands out of history and is hard to place. Yes, the landscapes of Paul Signac are similar as seen by comparing Signac's work on the left with a work by Seurat another quintessential pointillist/divisionist painter. The subject matter was trodden on before but Seurat's paintings hold a timeless sway much like Egyptian art and exhude a melancholy and stillness unlike any other artists. In the Seurat work above the lone boater feels isolated from the sailboat traveling in the opposite direction and is divided by a triangle of lit water. The rower seems frozen in the summer lake.

This Circus Sideshow seemed to baffle the critics and peers of his day and indeed Paul somewhat hid it away after it's premier showing at the Salon Des Independents of 1888. Paul, like so many great artists of his day and like the impressionist before him could not show in the accepted Salon of the day. Many of the artist of the day who exhibited at the accepted Salons are footnotes at best in today's art history texts.

Seurat's Circus Sideshow:  One Painting With A Sideshow Of Its Own At The MET

Not much is know of Paul. He was an introvert and obviously a bit disconnected. When he died of a fever at a young age his wife and child surprised Seurat's parents by showing up on their doorstep-they had not known of their grandchild nor his wife. On walks around Paris he remarked to fellow artists how the new gas lights of the day were fascinating and how colors shined from their glow. Technology plays a large roll in aesthetic works, often by giving new tools to artists but sometimes just by affording a new sight to see. Van Gogh's interior view of the night cafe (left, above) painted around the same time as Seurat's work emphasises the colors post-impressionists found in the light and shadows we often associate with just white and black.

Seurat's Circus Sideshow:  One Painting With A Sideshow Of Its Own At The MET
The Paris fairs were a free for all of sort. The regular people, yes, the poor sods who made up the 99% of Parisian life, released their inhibitions at these fairs, stared at obscurities and probably got really drunk. Sounds like today's art world. As political turmoil trolled France during the era most of the Fairs were actually shut down. They had become a sort of Halloween let loose extravaganza, that, though you might not remember, was like the dangerous burn the city down Halloween nights in NYC around this time too. Yeah, no pennies for Unicef back then.


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Barry Kostrinsky Barry Kostrinsky is the founder of Havensbx and Haven Arts. Gallery and performance spaces that reinvigorated the South Bronx arts scene from 2004-2017. The Municipal Arts Society (MAS) awarded Haven Arts a certificate of merit in 2006.

Barry has contributed to a variety of panels including a NYC Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) Percent for art program, and a Bronx Museum symposium for the Artist in the Artists in Marketplace (AIM) program. Barry formed and moderated talks for the Artists Talk on Art(ATOA) Series at The School of Visual Arts (SVA) and the National Arts Club that discussed the history of the Bronx arts scene and contemporary ceramics. Recently he joined the board of ATOA

Barry served as a member of the Arts in Public Places (AIPP) committee for Rockland County in the past and now sits on the board of "Human Connections Art"

His past experiences managing a family run manufacturing company in the South Bronx for 20+ years gives him a uniquely balanced view of the art world.

He worked in finance and banking from 2010-2013 for a small independent company and then for Bank of America. As a result he sees the art world from both the aesthetic side and the financial market it is.

As an artist Barry has exhibited in group shows in NYC. He works in a variety of medium including oil paints, ceramics, acrylics, watercolor, photography and mixed medium. Whereas the oil paintings are mostly plein-air works not unlike the impressionists and post-impressionist, his acrylic work is quite contemporary and often on found objects including car parts, light bulbs, beds and more. His photographic work ranges from serene nature shots, to street detritus and social commentary using his simple I-Phone and old Polaroid small format cameras. In ceramics Barry makes modern day minkisi-power figures and has helped developed Bruce Sherman's ceramic career while managing his studio from 2014-2016

Barry special ability is to be able to see others artists work from the eyes of an artist and to dialogue with artists in a meaningful way about their art and where they are going.

As a youth Barry was a math major at Vassar College and graduated in 1982. His High School days at New Rochelle High enabled him to develop his artistic talents, Mr. Blackburn was an inspiring teacher. He spent the summer before senior year at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and had a firm footing in the arts before college. By chance Vassar had one of the best art history departments in the US and he studied with Linda Nochlin, Susan Kuretsky and in his rookie year, Ken Silver.

He is a proud father of three grown kids ages 29,29 (twins is the way to start) and 24.

Like so many today he is divorced.

Barry has a strong passion for all things arts related and his love for cooking and eating run a close second.