In Room 44 sitting quietly is Bathers at Asnières, 1884, I forgot this was in the collection and it blew my socks off, like bumping into a major celebrity in the aisles of Tesco or perhaps Marks & Sparks. I was even more delighted to discover a little dog, sitting obediently by its owner in the bottom left hand side above Seurat’s signature. It is barely able to contain its excitement as the boy perhaps makes the sound of the factory whistle in his cupped hands.
Seurat uses the dog classically as a foil; barely noticeable, its naivety to the drama around it only helping to emphasise the relative complexity of the human experience.
In our new age we can empathise with the irrepressible natures of Seurat’s anonymous subjects as they find space to express their humanity at odds with the encroaching industrial and technical revolutions. The factories are demoted to the horizon; the heat haze seems to diminish their power in this moment atleast. Is this a scene of the power of humanity over adversary or a nostalgic last glance at a fading world?
Boris Mikhailov’s great series ‘Salt Lake 1986 is the best representation of the continuation of these themes.
See below one image from my series Bathers, Ukraine, 2011
Girl Texting, from series Bathers, Ukraine © Richard Ansett 2011