meaning of a sunday afternoon on the island of la grande jatte
Explanation of Other Modern French Paintings
The two main artistic traditions that dominated modern art during the second half of the nineteenth century – Realist painting and Impressionism – evolved from painters’ direct observation of the world around them. In contrast, Georges Seurat based his painting on the theories of Divisionism (a scientific interpretation of how the eye sees colour), pioneered by Michel Eugene Chevreul, Ogden Rood and others. The two large genre paintings that made his reputation – Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte and Bathers at Asnieres – are perfect examples of his ‘new’ Impressionism – although calling it after Monet’s style of spontaneous plein-air painting is rather misleading. Seurat worked mostly in his studio and planned his compositions with meticulous attention to detail. Indeed, for La Grande Jatte he made over seventy preliminary drawings and oil sketches. For more on the impact of Seurat’s Neo-Impressionsm, see Italian Divisionism (1890-1907). For more about the two main traditions, and how they related to each other, see: Realism to Impressionism (c.1830-1900).
Seurat took painstaking care in creating this work. He spent over two years and practiced many sketches as well as re-working the original painting several times. He began with endless practice of sketching figures in the park, perfecting the light and shadow as well as form. At one point, he even painted a small version of the finished piece.
Seurat is regarded as the father of the Neo-impressionist art movement, and A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte is considered to be the beginning of that movement. Although pointillism was heavily used during this era, it is the theory of light and color, as well as artistic impression of form that truly defines the style.
Some of the characters are doing curious things. The lady on the right side has a monkey on a leash. A lady on the left near the river bank is fishing. The area was known at the time as being a place to procure prostitutes among the bourgeoisie, a likely allusion of the otherwise odd “fishing” rod. In the painting’s center stands a little girl dressed in white (who is not in a shadow), who stares directly at the viewer of the painting. This may be interpreted as someone who is silently questioning the audience: “What will become of these people and their class?” Seurat paints their prospects bleakly, cloaked as they are in shadow and suspicion of sin. 
In 2011, the cast of the US version of The Office re-created the painting for a poster to promote the show’s seventh-season finale. 
Georges Seurat, Study for ‘A Sunday afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte’, 1884-86, Musée d’Orsay
In this large painting, Seurat depicted people relaxing in a suburban park on an island in the Seine River called La Grande Jatte. It may be just an ordinary day with ordinary people. The cast comprised three dogs, eight boats and 48 people as they congregated for a Sunday afternoon in the sunny park. But, the titular locale was a favorite of prostitutes on the prowl, so some historians suspect that fish are not what the fishing-pole-toting woman on the left was hoping to hook. The same speculation has arisen around the lady on the right, with a monkey on a leash and a man on her arm.
Introduced by Georges Seurat and fellow French artist Paul Signac in 1886, Pointillism is a painting technique in which small, discrete dots work together to create a cohesive composition. Although this aesthetic approach was largely inspired by the dappled brushstrokes of Impressionism, the genre is in fact a branch of Post-Impressionism, a major movement that emerged in the 1890s.
After completing the painting in 1886, Seurat opted to exhibit it in the eighth and final Impressionist exhibition. While it was met with mixed reviews, it remained the artist’s most well-known work of art until (and after) his untimely death in 1891.