Abstract Canvas Prints No 67 : A Sunday Afternoon on the Grand Jette
A Sunday Afternoon on the Grand Jette (1884-6) is one of the most recognisable paintings in the world.
It sees the beady-eyed Frenchman in his Pointillist prime, although he was still only in his mid 20s.
Again it is a huge canvas, measuring approximately 2 x 3 m, allowing his meticulously applied dots to pulse in all their glorious colour.
This is a much busier scene than Bathers at Asnieres (Asnieres is a suburb of Paris that is located just across the river Seine from the Grand Jette).
Here we have a cast of nearly 50 people, eight boats, three dogs, numerous trees and a monkey.
The men, women and children in the picture have been arranged in a series of poses, the majority of which are in profile looking over the river.
One woman, in a long orange dress and large straw hat, stands by the waters edge.
She has her left hand resting on her hip, while her right hand is occupied holding a modest fishing rod.
A handful of couples sit and talk, a little girl dances, a small dog leaps, while a sophisticated mother and her well-behaved young daughter walk absentmindedly towards the viewer.
Almost everyone is protected from the sun by a hat or a parasol or both.
It is a beguiling, mesmerising scene, but one not without complications.
The outcome of Seurat’s Pointillism is interesting and unexpected.
The image does indeed feels like a glass of champagne as the contrasting spots of pure pigment sparkle before your eyes.
But all those smartly dressed Parisians out for a pleasant Sunday stroll in the sun, whom Seurat has rendered dot by painstaking dart, do not.
They are so still and lifeless that they appear to be no more than cardboard cutouts.
Seurat’s masterpiece has a surreal spookiness about it that would make the filmmaker David Lynch smile.
A Sunday Afternoon on the Grand Jette was shown at the eighth and final Impressionists Exhibition in 1886, a sign of how much the movement had changed.
It is very much a Post Impressionist painting.
It has nothing of the Impressionists’ ‘fleeting moment’, it is more like a game of musical statues, where the characters have been frozen in time, holding forever their position when the music stopped.