what is the meaning of a sunday afternoon on the island of la grande jatte
A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte
In this masterpiece, Georges-Pierre Seurat employed the then innovative technique of pointillism. This method was inspired by scientific discoveries regarding color theory and optical effect. Rather than traditional brush strokes, he used a mass of miniscule contrasting dots which appear as a solid color to the human eye.
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.
For an interpretation of other pictures from the 19th and 20th centuries, see: Analysis of Modern Paintings (1800-2000).
Editorial credit: Boris15 / Shutterstock.com. A Rwandan stamp comemorating A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, circa 1980.
A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte is a painting by George Seurat.
The May 1976 issue of Playboy magazine featured Nancy Cameron—Playmate of the Month in January 1974—on its cover, superimposed on the painting in similar style. The often hidden bunny logo was disguised as one of the millions of dots. 
The painting is prominently featured in the 1986 comedy film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Such use is parodied, among others, in Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Family Guy, and Muppet Babies.
It is the most famous example of use of highly systematic and “scientific” technique, subsequently called Pointillism. It relies on the ability of the eye and mind of the viewer to blend the color spots into a fuller range of tones. Seurat himself preferred to call his technique “chromo-luminarism,” a term he felt better stressed its focus on color and light.
Known as croquetons—literally ‘sketchettes’—Seurat’s studies were all made on small wooden panels. Extraordinarily proud of them, he hung many in his studio. He also exhibited them regularly, demonstrating the significance he felt they had in his oeuvre. Seurat called the panels his ‘constant joy’.