Georges Seurat, Study for A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte,
Photo By Gail

OK, everybody recognizes the painting above, which is called A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, by French Post-Impressionist painter Georges Seurat, from the movie Ferris Buellers Day Off: that much we can agree on. However, this is not that actual painting but, rather, it is a study, or a sort of trial run of the finished painting. Even though it looks very much like the painting that Cameron stared at for ages during their visit to the Art Institute of Chicago in Ferris Buellers Day Off, it is not that painting.

In fact, this isn’t even the only study that Seurat created for A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, which he worked over the course of two years (1884 – 1886). Focusing meticulously on the landscape of the park, Seurat reworked the original, as well as completed numerous preliminary drawings and oil sketches.  He spent hours in the park creating numerous sketches of the various figures in order to perfect their form. He concentrated on the issues of color, light, and form. The finished painting is approximately 7 by 10 feet in size.

Wikipedia also offers that, “Inspired by optical effects and perception inherent in the color theories of Michel Eugène Chevreul, Ogden Rood and others, Seurat adapted this scientific research to his painting. He contrasted miniature dots or small brushstrokes of colors that when unified optically in the human eye were perceived as a single shade or hue. He believed that this form of painting, called divisionism at the time but now known as pointillism, would make the colors more brilliant and powerful than standard brush strokes. The use of dots of almost uniform size came in the second year of his work on the painting, 1885–86. To make the experience of the painting even more vivid, he surrounded it with a frame of painted dots, which in turn he enclosed with a pure white, wooden frame, which is how the painting is exhibited today at the Art Institute of Chicago.

This photograph of the study for A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte was taken at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.

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