Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat

Posted: November 27, 2013 in art, culture, painting, Uncategorized
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(Fleming, Arts & Ideas, 7th Edition 1986)

Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat shows how the impressionistic theory was carried to a logical, methodical, almost mathematical conclusion. Light, shadow, and color are still the major concerns, and the subject is also that of an urban scene, this time of a relaxed group of middle-class Parisians on a Sunday outing. Instead of informal casual arrangements, however, everything here seems as set as an old-fashioned family portrait. Instead of misty indistinct forms, such details as a bustle, a parasol, or a stovepipe hat are as stylized and geometrical as in a Renaissance fresco.

Unlike the impressionists, who improvised their pictures outdoors, Seurat carefully composed his large canvas in his studio over a period of years. Instead of hastily painted patches of broken color, Seurat worked out a system called Pointillism. By this system thousands of dots of uniform size were applied to the canvas in such a calculated and painstaking way that the most subtle tints were brought under his control. The picture, moreover, was divided into areas, and graduating shades blended tonalities into a tonal unity.

-Roz Barron Abellera

  1. eyegawker says:

    It’s interesting to see how Seurat critiques society through pointillism compared to his contemporaries. He comments on the mechanized aspects of humans, as represented by their still, almost forced poses on the grass.

    • Yes. Even his whole approach and the whole idea of Pointillism is mechanical. He took Impressionism, a style of painting which was breaking from Realism by being “loose” and turned it into something which was technical and “tight” again. It’s interesting how things come full circle. Seurat’s people are “mechanical,” but I don’t know if that happened because he was commenting on society and class or did they turn out feeling mechanical because of the technical “stiffness” of using Pointillism.

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