Georges Seurat (French, 1859–1891)
Oil on canvas
27 3/4 x 41 in. (70.5 x 104.1 cm)
Bequest of Sam A. Lewisohn, 1951 (51.112.6)
Seurat's famous painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (Art Institute of Chicago) debuted at the 1886 Impressionist exhibition in Paris. He had begun the work two years earlier, completing more than fifty studies, including this one. Upon Pissarro's advice, Seurat painted the final canvas with pigments that proved unstable and soon lost their luster. Thus the present study provides a vital record of the chromatic intensity he had hoped to achieve.
Seurat's style came to be known as Pointillism (from the French word "point," or "dot"), but he preferred the term divisionism—the principle of separating color into small touches placed side-by-side and meant to blend in the eye of the viewer. He felt that colors applied in this way—not mixed on a palette or muddied by overlapping—would retain their integrity and produce a more brilliant, harmonious result. The juxtaposed touches of color that are woven together here with short, patchy brushstrokes are more systematically applied, with discrete daubs of paint, in the final work.