how big is the painting a sunday afternoon on
Seurat’s first major pointillist work was Bathers at Asnieres (1883-4, National Gallery, London). Although rejected by the official Paris Salon, the work was shown at the Salon des Independants, an alternative event co-founded by Seurat himself, where he met fellow pointillists Paul Signac (1863-1935) and Henri-Edmond Cross (1856-1910), who helped him to further develop the idiom. Shortly afterwards Seurat began painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, which took him two years to finish. It was exhibited for the first time in May 1886 at the final Impressionist exhibition: an ironic occurrence since the work is now seen as one of the first major examples of Post-Impressionist painting (1880-95).
The canvas is crowded with some forty stereotypical Parisian figures, shown full-face or in profile. Carefully arranged in static groups across the picture, they appear uncommunicative and frozen in time, adding to the dreamlike quality of the painting. Featuring men, women and children of all ages, Seurat’s figures also include several with symbolic meaning. A well-dressed women (extreme left) holds a fishing pole, alluding to the ‘fishing’ conducted by the bourgeois prostitutes of the area. The standing lady (foreground, extreme right) has a fashionable capuchin monkey as a pet. This identifies her as another prostitute (this time with a client), since the French word for ‘female monkey’ (singesse), was also slang for a woman of loose morals. A small girl dressed in white stares out at the viewer from the centre of the composition, as if to ask “what will happen to all these contented members of the bourgeoisie?” As well as these allusions to the social and political content of the picture, Seurat also includes a dash of patriotism: a boat is shown flying the French national flag, and two soldiers stand at attention as a musician plays (presumably) the national anthem.
In order to perfect his painting of the popular park, Seurat completed a collection of preliminary sketches and drawings. Taking a cue from the Impressionists, he created these studies away from his studio and en plein air. This approach enabled Seurat to capture the color, light, and movement of the scene before him, which he revisited several times before finishing the final large-scale painting in 1886.
Seurat completed this monumental masterpiece in the 1880s. In order to craft the larger-than-life scene, the artist meticulously applied millions of hand-painted dots to the canvas. Seurat pioneered this technique when painting A Sunday Afternoon the the Island of La Grande Jatte, sparking the start of the Pointillist movement.
In 1879 Georges Seurat enlisted as a soldier in the French army and was back home by 1880. Later, he ran a small painter’s studio in Paris, and in 1883 showed his work publicly for the first time. The following year, Seurat began to work on La Grande Jatte and exhibited the painting in the spring of 1886 with the Impressionists.  With La Grande Jatte, Seurat was immediately acknowledged as the leader of a new and rebellious form of Impressionism called Neo-Impressionism. 
In Topiary Park (formerly Old Deaf School Park) in Columbus, Ohio, sculptor James T. Mason re-created the painting in topiary form;  the installation was completed in 1989.
In terms of perspective, most of the figures’ view is focused on the river to the left of the image. Despite the fact the river comprises only a small part of the painting, the activities in this segment draw the viewer’s gaze. The figures at the front appear to be very close to the viewer – the woman walking a monkey and the man beside her are the biggest figures in A Sunday Afternoon On The Island Of La Grande Jatte and their size balances this work of immense proportions.
La Grande Jatte, toward Clichy, 2006, via wikipedia.org
In its remote location Seurat was able to capture an interesting glimpse of wealthy Parisian life in the 19th century. The painting sparked numerous interpretations and was criticized for being too mathematical. Upon its exhibition however, it was mostly heralded as a grand work of meticulous proportions.
On the banks of the river Seine, the island represented a new type of modernity for leisure for some of Paris’ wealthier citizens. The island inspired Seurat to paint perhaps the most notorious work of his short-lived career.