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Art expert curates major New York show

A new show curated by the University’s Professor Richard Thomson and centred on a post-Impressionism masterpiece is due to open at one of the world's great galleries in New York.

The exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art focuses on Georges Seurat’s masterpiece Circus Sideshow (1887-8), a nocturnal scene showing performers attempting to entice the public into a show.

Colourful context

Professor Thomson,  an expert in late 19th century French work, has selected more than 80 works in various media to be presented alongside Seurat’s painting.

These include the artist’s own preparatory work and images that may have drawn him to the subject and inspired his composition

The show also features work by artists including Honoré Daumier and the young Pablo Picasso on the theme of the circus parade, when performers tried to encourage the passing crowd to pay to see the show.

Seurat is an interesting artist to teach because, while his subjects - public places in Paris, the city's night-life and the Channel coast - are straightforward and inviting, his technique, with his complex spatial structures, dotted surfaces and schematic figures, can seem quite forbidding. And yet the paintings have a magnetic fascination to which students respond, not least because they are very difficult to interpret, and so prompt much discussion.

Prof Richard ThomsonWatson Gordon Professor of Fine Art, Edinburgh College of Art

International scope

Prof Thompson has previously organised a show based on Seurat’s first great painting, The Bathers, Asnières, in the National Gallery in London, in 1997.

He has been working on Seurat’s Circus Sideshow since early 2014, securing loans from museums in Barcelona, Poitiers, Marseilles and Amsterdam.

Seurat’s Circus Sideshow opens on 15 February and runs until 29 May.

Related links

Seurat's Circus Sideshow

Study History of Art

The Metropolitan Museum