Feel Art Again: "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte"

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Several months back, a reader named Joseph suggested George Seurat's "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" for, aptly enough, a Sunday afternoon. Since 'Feel Art Again' runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays, though, I figured today was as good a time as any. And, with the snowy forecast for tomorrow (at least here in PA), a cheery weather painting is just what we need. So, I'm proud to present "Un dimanche après-midi à l'Île de la Grande Jatte" by Georges-Pierre Seurat.

1. George Seurat devoted two years to "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte," spending afternoons in the park sketching figures. He completed approximately 60 studies for the 2x3 meter painting, and even reworked the original. He was most focused on color and light. Unfortunately, the pigment zinc yellow, which was new at the time, has darkened to brown over the years, changing the appearance of the lawn and other parts of the painting.

2. Seurat's interest in the study and emotion of color might possibly be traced back to his childhood home. With his parents and two siblings, he lived at 100 Boulevard Magenta.

3. Near the end of his life, Seurat secretly cohabited with Madeleine Knobloch, a young model. In February 1890, she gave birth to their first son. Seurat died of uncertain causes in March 1891, shortly before the birth of his second son, who died soon after birth. Supposedly, Seurat had only introduced Knobloch and his son to his parents two days before his death.

4. After his death, the contents of Seurat's studio were classified at his parents' request. They offered the contents to the Louvre, but were refused; the contents were then divided amongst Knobloch and some of Seurat's followers.

5. "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" isn't just Seurat's most famous painting, it is also one of the most famous and frequently reproduced paintings in the world. Like Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa," Salvador Dali's "The Persistence of Memory," and Edvard Munch's "The Scream," Seurat's painting is often reference in pop culture. Stephen Sondheim wrote a Tony award-winning musical about it; the Looney Tunes, the Simpsons, and Sesame Street parodied it; it appeared in "Barbarella" (1968) and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (1986); and Nancy Cameron posed in front of a copy of it for the January 1976 issue of Playboy.

6. In 2006, the painting was recreated in modern clothes in Beloit, WI. The recreation took place on a Saturday afternoon on the bank of the Rock River to promote the "Saturday in the Park with Friends" event. Arranged by Friends of Riverfront, the event was a bigger hit than expected. Check out the photo collection on flickr to see how close to the original they got.

A larger version of the painting is available here.

'Feel Art Again' appears every Tuesday and Thursday.

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February 21, 2008 - 11:06am
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