what colors did seurat use on a sunday afternoon
The huge work (7 feet in height; 10 feet in width) caused a sensation. Not only did it exude a shimmering impression of warm, hazy sunshine, but the stylized, statuesque nature of its figure painting exuded a timeless and monumental quality. Unlike the fleeting naturalism of Monet (1840-1926) and Renoir (1841-1919), which captured the momentary perceptions of the artist, La Grande Jatte was painstakingly planned from start to finish in the manner of a Greek frieze, and its (often) symbolic content positively invites careful scrutiny.
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).
Simple, sketched out figures
The dotting technique with a cotton swab (confetti effect)
A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte depicts a typical outing for Parisians living in the 1880s. Facing the shimmering river and relying on umbrellas and trees for shade, they appear to enjoy a brief escape from city life, whether they’re lounging on the grass, fishing in the river, or even admiring the ambiance in the company of a pet monkey.
Paul Signac, “The Pine Tree at Saint-Tropez,” 1909 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons Public Domain)
The Island of la Grande Jatte is located at the very gates of Paris, lying in the Seine between Neuilly and Levallois-Perret, a short distance from where La Défense business district currently stands. Although for many years it was an industrial site, it is today the site of a public garden and a housing development. When Seurat began the painting in 1884, the island was a bucolic retreat far from the urban center.
According to historian of Modernism William R. Everdell:
In 1899 Seurat re-stretched its canvas to allow for room to paint a border made up of red, orange and blue dots. It was suppose to make the whole concept of pointilism more visible, as well as putting the painting into white frame. Unfortunately, Seurat employed a then-new pigment, a zinc chromate yellow that he hoped would properly capture the highlights of the park’s green grasses. But for years this pigment has been undergoing a chemical reaction that began turning it brown even in Seurat’s lifetime.
Georges Seurat, A Woman Fishing, drawing, 1884, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York