Tag Archives: Neo-impressionism

#FineArtFriday: A Sunday on La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat circa 1884

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat (1884–1886) is a landmark painting. Art historians agree that with this image, Seurat changed the direction of modern art and began the era of Neo-impressionism. It is one of the most recognizable of late 19th-century paintings.

About this painting from Wikipedia: In summer 1884, Seurat began work on A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.

The painting shows members of each of the social classes participating in various park activities. The tiny juxtaposed dots of multi-colored paint allow the viewer’s eye to blend colors optically, rather than having the colors physically blended on the canvas. It took Seurat two years to complete this 10-foot-wide (3.0 m) painting, much of which he spent in the park sketching in preparation for the work (there are about 60 studies). It is now in the permanent collection of the Art Institute of Chicago.

What I love about this painting is the preciseness of each component. This painting proudly declares it is not “real”—it is instead an impression of a moment in time, a summer day spent on the River Seine. It is both sharply delineated and dreamlike. That is a neat trick.

Seurat used individual dots of only primary colors (Red, green, yellow, blue) but the way he places them, they seem muted and blended into shades of rose and purple, and even pale pink. I’m captivated by a technicality – obsessed by the way the primary colors of each dot are juxtaposed with other primary colors, tricking the eye into believing it sees light and dark, and all shades between.

About the Artist, via Wikipedia: (Seurat) is noted for his innovative use of drawing media and for devising the painting techniques known as chromoluminarism and pointillism. Seurat’s artistic personality was compounded of qualities which are usually supposed to be opposed and incompatible: on the one hand, his extreme and delicate sensibility; on the other, a passion for logical abstraction and an almost mathematical precision of mind.

This technique is one I hadn’t given much thought to until I ran across a postcard with this image on it. Other notable artists who explored this method were Paul Signac and Vincent van Gogh.

For me, studying these images of masterpieces for the Friday posts on art teaches me how to be creative with my words. Artists both push the limits of their color palettes and yet force external constraints on themselves to create images that fool the eye.

Authors must do the same with how we shape our words.

About the Pointillist technique of painting, from Wikipedia: If red, blue, and green light (the additive primaries) are mixed, the result is something close to white light. Painting is inherently subtractive, but Pointillist colors often seem brighter than typical mixed subtractive colors. This may be partly because subtractive mixing of the pigments is avoided, and partly because some of the white canvas may be showing between the applied dots.

The painting technique used for Pointillist color mixing is at the expense of the traditional brushwork used to delineate texture.

The majority of Pointillism is done in oil paint. Anything may be used in its place, but oils are preferred for their thickness and tendency not to run or bleed.


Sources and Attributions:

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Georges Seurat – A Sunday on La Grande Jatte — 1884 – Google Art Project.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Georges_Seurat_-_A_Sunday_on_La_Grande_Jatte_–_1884_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg&oldid=90112845 (accessed January 10, 2019).

Wikipedia contributors, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=A_Sunday_Afternoon_on_the_Island_of_La_Grande_Jatte&oldid=875941354 (accessed January 10, 2019).

Wikipedia contributors, “Georges Seurat,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Georges_Seurat&oldid=877532379 (accessed January 10, 2019).

Wikipedia contributors, “Pointillism,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Pointillism&oldid=874469961(accessed January 10, 2019).

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