what is a sunday afternoon on the island of la grande jatte about
NOTE: Seurat’s 19th century colour palette comprised the usual colour pigments of the time, including vermilion, cobalt blue and emerald green. He also used the then-new pigment zinc yellow (zinc chromate), mainly for yellow highlights in the sunlit grass, but additionally in combination with blue and orange hues. Unfortunately, the zinc yellow has gradually darkened to a brownish colour, a process detectable even in Seurat’s lifetime.
The painting depicts fashionable Parisians enjoying a Sunday afternoon at a popular beauty spot located on the River Seine between Neuilly and Levallois-Perret. While his earlier Bathers at Asnieres depicted the working class left-bank of the river, this work shows the bourgeois right-bank at La Grande Jatte. Thus, for instance, in contrast to the unremitting heat of Asnieres, La Grande Jatte has plenty of cool shade in which to escape the sun.
While the styles explored by Post-Impressionist artists are diverse, most featured flatness, formality, and exaggerated color in their work—characteristics that are evident in A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.
Another optical trick evident in this painting is Seurat’s inclusion of an innovative painted “frame.” According to the Art Institute of Chicago, this Pointillist border is supposed to “make the experience of the painting even more intense” by adding even more colors, tones, and a textures to the composition.
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.
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.
In 1924 the painting was purchased by Fredric and Helen Birch Bartlett, and the Art Institute of Chicago. The source of funds (the Bartlett’s of the museum) is unclear. The painting is currently displayed in the Helen Birch Bartlett Collection at the Art Institute of Chicago. Some of the colors have darkened over the years. Seurat used the then new yellow zinc for many of the yellow highlights, especially in the park lawn. As this pigment darkens over time, it is now brown rather than bright yellow.
Using complementary or contrasting base colors in tiny increments, instead of mixing the desired shade of paint, the desired color blending would appear to the naked eye. This was believed to be more reflective of a real world experience, and therefore incite a more intuitive response from the viewer. However, this scientific approach to art and emotion was quite controversial at the time.
Nowadays, A Sunday Afternoon On The Island Of La Grande Jatte can be viewed at the Art Institute of Chicago. Aside from offering us an opportunity to see first-hand one of the most important modern artworks that paved the way for avant-garde thought, this painting is also a symbol of how an ambitious young man, unsatisfied with current artistic standards and norms, set off to prove his own views on art regardless of the protests of his colleagues. As a painter, Georges Seurat wanted to make a difference and with La Grand Jatte, he succeeded. A Sunday Afternoon On The Island Of La Grande Jatte is now regarded as an iconic part of our culture and is viewed as one of the most pivotal works of art ever put onto a canvas.
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.