Georges Seurat was a French painter who produced the oil painting 'Gravelines, in the Direction of the Sea' in 1890, just a year before his death. The image is a 'pointillist' oil painting. The pointillist technique requires the artist to apply groups of small dots of paint to the canvas which will ultimately merge together to form the required image.
It seems that Georges Seurat thrived on painting what, to many, may seem to be mundane images of unexciting locations. The town of Gravelines is located near to the famous town of Dunkirk and close to the Belgian border. The town was described as "an uninteresting town' by guidebooks of the time. This may have been the reason Seurat chose the location for his last four landscape paintings. Many of the Seurat landscape paintings could be described as 'serene', 'wistful' and 'poetic'. It should be noted that the artist would often leave out any human images from his paintings, preferring to concentrate on the architecture and static objects within the landscape.
The painting 'The Channel at Gravelines, in the Direction of the Sea' provides a view of the a fishing boat sailing in to the channel and others moored by the banks. The canvas is dominated by the predominantly blue sky and water which takes up around 80 percent of the image. As was the norm for Seurat, the painting does not include a single human image, even the boat seen sailing into the channel does not seem to have any crew or captain visible.
The well defined channel and straight lines of the flat, local landscape lend themselves well to the artist's preferred style of painting in an organized and disciplined manner. The fishing boats depicted to the right hand side of the canvas would be used for cod and herring fishing. Although this painting is created in oil on canvas, it manages to convey a very 'pastel' image to the viewer, the result of the pointillist technique favoured by Georges Seurat.
The artist clearly does not wish to produce any dramatic effect, merely to describe the view, as he saw it, at a particular time and and on a particular day. The painting conveys the life of a late nineteenth century, French fishing port in a very relaxed style. Seurat chose to paint this channel from different locations and in varying light conditions for the final four landscapes of his career.