A Sunday on La Grande Jatte (1884-1886) by Georges SeuratThe Art Institute of Chicago
Welcome to the banks of the River Seine, on the Island of La Grande Jatte. It's a Sunday afternoon in Paris during the 1880s, and the bustle of a city park is in full swing.
Georges Seurat became famous for painting in a style known as 'pointillism', using millions of tiny brushstrokes and dots to compose his scene giving an effect of shimmering light and motion. You can almost hear the leaves rustle and the birds caw!
Listen to the oars of the rowers, and look at how Seurat's pointillist technique makes the water sparkle in the sun and seem slightly rippled by the boats. There's a man standing alone in the shade...the park was a known meeting place for filles de joie!
The picture seems full of life. And sound! This man disturbs the peace by playing a brass instrument. The bell is pointed back at the man himself. How odd! Is Seurat making a joke at the expense of this middle class scene? At first they look so ordinary...
The prized pets of Paris scramble in the foreground. A dainty dog wears a bow. And a close look reveals a monkey on a leash! Beneath the veneer of this quite ordinary scene are the strange fashions of an increasingly modern Paris.
Even though the short brushstrokes mean that the people's faces are smudged and unclear, they have character, the suggestion of thought and interior life.
If you look into the eyes of this little girl the sounds of the park melt away. She's looking right at the viewer. What is she thinking? What is she inviting us to think?
Is she silently inviting us to judge and question the scene, to pause for a moment and reflect on the strangeness beneath the calm?
A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte is Georges Seurat's most famous painting. At first glance, it seems like an ordinary scene, but hopefully this audio tour has proved that there's more than meets the eye!