Circus Sideshow (Parade de cirque), 1887-88. Georges Seurat. Oil on canvas. Bequest of Stephen C. Clark, 1960.
At the Salon des Indépendants in 1888 Seurat demonstrated the versatility of his technique by exhibiting Circus Sideshow, a nighttime outdoor scene in artificial light, and Models, an indoor, daylight scene (Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia). This is Seurat’s first nocturnal painting and the first to depict popular entertainment. It represents the parade, or sideshow, of the Circus Corvi at the annual Gingerbread Fair, held in eastern Paris around the place de la Nation, in spring 1887. Sideshows were staged outside the circus tent, for free, to entice passersby to purchase tickets. The onlookers at the far right are queued on stairs leading to the box office.