Seurat's Circus Sideshow

Exhibition Website

Feb 17 2017 - May 29 2017

Taking as its focus one of The Met’s most captivating masterpieces, this thematic exhibition affords a unique context for appreciating the heritage and allure of Circus Sideshow (Parade de cirque), painted in 1887-1888 by Georges Seurat (1859-1891). Anchored by a remarkable group of related works by Seurat that will fully illuminate the lineage of the motif in his inimitable conté crayon drawings, the presentation will explore the fascination the sideshow subject held for other artists in the 19th century, ranging from the great caricaturist Honoré Daumier at mid-century to the young Pablo Picasso at the fin de siècle.

This rich visual narrative will unfold in a provocative display of more than 100 paintings, drawings, prints, period posters, and illustrated journals, supplemented by musical instruments and an array of documentary material intended to give a vivid sense of the seasonal fairs and traveling circuses of the day. Among the highlights will be Fernand Pelez’s epic Grimaces and Misery–The Saltimbanques (Petit Palais, Paris), of exactly the same date as Seurat’s magisterial work and, with its life-size performers aligned in friezelike formation across a 20-foot stage, a match for his ambition.

Exhibition overview from museum website

Whether you go or not, the exhibition catalog, Seurat's Circus Sideshowestablishes Circus Sideshow as a pioneering work in the genre of circus-themed art, drawing connections to Parisian street life, to the works of other artists, and to the broader complexities of modern life.The mystery, color, and magic of the circus was a subject of fascination for European artists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The French Post-Impressionist painter Georges-Pierre Seurat (1859–1891) explored this theme in a number of drawings and sketches, as well as in his 1888 Pointillist masterwork, Circus Sideshow. Lush reproductions of the work are buttressed by images of Seurat’s preparatory drawings and ephemera from circuses and street performances of the time to offer a full understanding of the historical context.

Seurat's Circus Sideshow

  • European
  • 19th Century
  • Culture / Lifestyle
  • Georges Seurat
  • Fernand Pelez
  • Honoré Daumier
  • Pablo Picasso
  • and others

Exhibition Venues & Dates