Sunday afternoon on the island of La Grande Jatte

Georges Seurat • Painting, 1886, 207.5×308.1 cm
About the artwork
Art form: Painting
Subject and objects: Genre scene
Technique: Oil
Materials: Canvas
Date of creation: 1886
Size: 207.5×308.1 cm
Artwork in collection: Pointillism Irina Olikh
Artwork in selections: 104 selections

Description of the artwork «Sunday afternoon on the island of La Grande Jatte»

"Sunday afternoon on the island of La Grande Jatte" was first shown at the last, eighth exhibition of the Impressionists in 1886. The painting was immediately recognized as one of the greatest works of our time. Seurat took two years to complete this huge canvas.

The artist applies color in the form of dots or spots of contrasting colors, and this allows you to create a particularly bright and light drawing. Not a trace remained of impressionism, the picture is clearly structured, the composition is ordered and thoughtful, the figures seem monumental. They are devoid of individuality, but they have timelessness, evoking the thought of ancient frescoes. Seurat's impressionistic moment froze and turned into eternity.

High society gathered at La Grande Jatte on Sunday. Prostitutes also highly appreciated this island: in an atmosphere of relaxation and recreation, it is easy to look for clients. And secular dandies, accordingly, easily found girls for entertainment. La Grande Jatte was even called the island of love. The context of that time immediately made it clear what Sera was portraying. For example, the girl on the left with a fishing rod in her hands does not at all look like an amateur angler. She intends to catch a completely different fish this weekend. The couple on the right seem to be respectable bourgeois. And if you look closely at the fact that the lady is not at all on a leash, but a monkey? And if you know that the monkey was considered a symbol of depravity, and in the Parisian jargon, that was the name of prostitutes? Perhaps the respectable couple appears in a different light. From behind we see a couple hugging, but in light of other discoveries, there is little chance of believing that they are young lovers.

In the center of the picture is a little girl in white holding the hand with her mother or nanny. As usual, Seura doesn't write the details. “The artist must learn to depict not the object, but the essence of the object. When he paints a horse, it should not be a specific horse that you can identify on the street. The camera takes a photo; we should go much further ", - Seurat declared his approach. The girl in white embodies youth, purity. But placed in this environment, it raises anxiety about its future.

There is an older child, a jumping girl, a little further. Almost next to the seemingly respectable couple is a young girl bent over a bouquet of flowers. Who can the baby in the white dress be here? What's in store for all these girls and girls? Will they go fishing on La Grande Jatte? It seems that the girl in white is the only one looking directly into the audience's face, as if waiting for an answer to this question.

Seurat's Island is a modernized quote from Puvis de Chavannes "Sacred grove"... Seurat borrowed from Chavanne a sense of frozen time. But his eternity has a completely different taste. Puvi depicts what is happening on a distant mythical island, Seurat is real. The muses of Shavanna were replaced by prostitutes. This is what the sacred grove of 1884 might look like.

The parallel between this picture and "Bathing in Asnieres"... Secular society on the right bank and the world of workers on the left. Two sides, two sides of the modern world: the shaded island and the sunny beach.

Author: Alain Esaulova