A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte is one of the most well-known paintings of the 19th century. Georges Pierre Seurat started this painting in 1884 and it took him two years to perfect his portrayal of Parisian life in the park on the Seine River of Paris. Currently on display in the Art Institute of Chicago, this painting continues to draw interest and catch spectators’ eyes with its lively colors and unique style.The fiscal boom of technology and merchandise of the Industrial age drove breakthroughs in science and industrial technology. During this time, realism; the truthful and objective representation of the social world, without illusion or imaginative alteration, was in full affect (pg 351).
The Avant Garde art movement came alive during this time, trying to portray an everyday subject matter using an illustrious vivacity and radiance of color on canvas. A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte depicts a still moment in time exemplified with vibrant colors of reds, blues, and greens to humanize a Sunday afternoon, leaving nothing to the imagination of the onlooker using an unorthodox style now known as pointillism. Georges often read books such as “Principles of Harmony and Contrast of Colors” and “The Grammar of Painting and Engraving”.
He also visited museums, including the Fourth Impressionist Exhibition and gained inspiration by the sprightly and atmospheric way which impressionists, especially Monet and Pissaro painted. This opened his eyes to develop theories on ways to create emotion and harmony through science and color. He continued to broaden his creativity of natural beauty and daily affairs while spending the summer of 1885 at Grandcamp, in Normandy and the winter working on the island of La Grande Jatte. He used his interpretation of paintings he had studied, along with his love for science and painted in a way that produced an incandescent, gleaming effect through “optical mixing.” To do this he applied tiny precise dots or brush strokes side by side so that they would appear to blend when viewed from a distance: known as Pointillism or Divisionism. A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte embodies Seurat’s ingenuity and originality of how science and art can intertwine, creating a masterful, lively work of art. “Some say they see poetry in my paintings; I see only science.” Georges Pierre Seurat, the youngest of 3, was born on December 2, 1859 in Paris, France to Antoine-Chrisostôme Seurat and Ernestine Faivre .
Recognizing his passion for art, his family encouraged him to begin taking art lessons from his uncle, Paul Haumonté, an amateur painter. In 1875, he began his formal education under sculptor Justin Lequien, taking drawing classes at night. Eager to expand his knowledge, Georges enrolled at Ecole des Beaux in 1878- 1879 in Paris under artist Henri Lehmann. In 1883, in his mid- 20s, he exhibited his first work in the annual Salon. In 1884, after being excluded by the Salon, he joined with Odilon Redon, Henri-Edmond Cross, Paul Signac, Maximilian Luce to establish Salon des Independants. Soon after joining this organization, he produced his first major work Bathers at Asnieres in 1884. Between 1884 and 1890 he continued sketch and draw conventional life events and make beautiful still life portraits and landscape canvases, including La Seine à la Grande-Jatte and Young Woman Powdering Herself.
On February 16, 1890, he and Madeleine Knobloch, his common-law wife, welcomed their first son, Pierre Georges Seurat. Georges died of illness, meningitis or pneumonia, on March 29, 1891 leaving behind his wife and son. Shortly after Georges’ passing, Pierre also became ill and died on April 13, 1891. Even after his death, Georges Seurat continued to have an impact on many of his contemporanes, from Paul Signas to Vincent van Gogh, and symbolist artists, with his artwork and artistic theories. Although his life was short lived, just 31 years, he will be remembered for leading the Neo-Impressionism movement with the development of pointillism to build a cohesive picture. Georges continues to shape current art and artists through the seven monumental paintings, several sketchbooks, and hundreds of smaller paintings, sketches, and drawings, symbolizing one of the greatest periods in art history.