Seurat - Sunday Afternoon

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Seurat’s Sunday Afternoon

On a sunny afternoon in 19th century Paris, France, a young Frenchman seated himself on a patch of grass, overlooking the sprightly island of la Grande Jatte. Georges-Pierre Seurat recorded his meticulous observations of the soothing, riverside landscape with a simple pencil and sketchpad. Yet, he was unaware that those sketches would be the preliminary steps towards his crowning achievement. By applying unique painting techniques to create tranquility, ironically combining rigid elements and a serene landscape, and including various natural life, Seurat brings conflicting, but interesting elements to “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte”.

Seurat’s famous “Sunday Afternoon” painting depicts an idle group of individuals enjoying the leisure of free time, producing a peaceful, serene atmosphere. Utilizing his unique style of pointillism, Seurat creates the illusion of a variety of colors, though actually using the three primary pigments, red, blue, and yellow in the form of numerous dots. For instance, the grass seen throughout the painting appears to be a solid green from a distance. However, upon closer inspection, the grass ‘separates’ into multitudes of green, blue, and even orange dots. Seurat cleverly employs this style to bathe the painting in soft colors, which further illustrate a world of serenity.

Seurat includes a strange piece of irony in “Sunday Afternoon”. Many of the people depicted in the painting are lounging generously across the lawn, while others merely sit, watching the coast before them. However, as the eye travels further from the coastline, towards the right, foreground of the painting, the casual atmosphere seems to be ‘disrupted’ by the presence of a very stiff, rigid “couple”. This is also the first instance in which Seurat uses black tones on his subjects’ clothing. The “couple”, whose attire contrasts drastically with the vivid, yet soft environment, appear to be calm, just the same,...
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