La Grande Jatte
Un Dimanche après-midi à l´Île de la Grande Jatte "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte", depicts a scene of Sunday strollers and boating parties on the island of La Grande Jatte in the Seine west of Paris. Georges-Pierre Seurat (1859-91), the first "Post-Impressionist" painter, who adopted a system known as pointilism, influenced by the Impressionists’ experimentation with colour, Seurat had a scientific theory to prove - that painting in dots, known as pointillism (also divisionism) would produce brighter colour. Seurat called this Chromo-luminarism or "optical painting". Seurat's variety of brushmarks included parallel stitches to form contours of a bustle, and a monkey to establish sharp contours. In the plane of the sunlit grass, the paint is applied in short even strokes laid one over the other. The 19th century writer J.K. Huysmans commented,
"Strip [Seurat’s] figures of the coloured fleas that cover them, and underneath you will find nothing, no thought no soul; nothing. Nothingness in bodies whose contours alone exist."
W. I. Homer stated in "Seurat And The Science of Painting" that:
"First [Seurat] discovered and applied physical laws, governing the behaviour of light and colour in nature, rather than merely relying on his sensations, by doing so he was literally able to make his pictures duplicate nature's mode of operation, thus obtaining a degree of luminosity far greater than that achieved by the Impressionists. Secondly, Seurat integrated a carefully worked out colour scheme that could accurately represent nature's hues and values. In other words he united the traditional elements of chiarascuro, both in modelling and in painting, with colours that, like those of the Impressionists, were extremely accurate in representing the actual hues present in the subject - local colours, the tone of the illuminating light and diverse reflections. Third, he harmonised the colours of La Grande Jatte according to the principals of contrast and analogy drawn largely from the writing of Chevreul and Rood, rather than relying on instinct or rule of thumb."
Félix Fénéon in his article Les Impressionistes listed the number of contributions the Seurat made to perception of colour through his works:
- Local colour: the colour of the object under white light
- Directly reflected light: the portion of the illumination that is reflected unaltered from the surface
- Indirectly reflected light: 'the feeble portion of coloured light which penetrates below the surface and which is reflected after modification by partial absorption'
- Colour reflections projected by neighbouring objects
- Ambient complementary colours
The art historian, T.J. Clark interpreted La Grande Jatte as a painting, "which attempts to find form for the appearance of class in capitalist society." Seurat used his colour and light, Clark claimed in "The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and His Followers", so as to help him spell out how the new, train-taking petite-bourgeoisie of Paris coexisted with a working class that also claimed the island.
It is on display at the Art Institute of Chicago - their web site uses a content management system similar to the one used to build this Internet site.