A Sunday Afternoon On the Island of La Grande Jatte

While browsing around recently, I came across a fun YouTube channel. It’s called “Spencer’s Painting of the Week” and includes brief explanations about many famous paintings, including Georges Seurat’s famous “pointillism” masterpiece.

I learned a lot from this 5-minute talk about the painting, such as the fact that it was included in the 1986 movie, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Among the things I didn’t know about this painting was its size. It is over 10 feet wide! The specific dimensions according to the Art Institute of Chicago are 6′ 10″ in height, and 10′ 1″ in width. That’s one very large piece of art!

Do you know how long it took Seurat to complete the painting? I didn’t, but this video talk gave me the answer. Because of the size and the pointillism technique, I can definitely understand why it took more than two years for Seurat to finish this masterpiece.

Another question I had was about the island itself. Yes, La Grand Jatte is a real place. It’s an island located in the Seine River.

A bit more browsing revealed that there were many other things about the famous painting that I didn’t know, including the fact that Seurat re-stretched the canvas a few years after initially completing it in order to add a border — made up of red, orange, and blue dots.

You’ll find more fascinating facts about the painting here: 15 Facts About A Sunday on La Grande Jatte.

Of course, the one thing we all know about Seurat’s most famous painting is that it’s an example of pointillism, using tiny dots of color that “blend” in the viewer’s eyes to create the various colors. It’s an interesting technique, and if you’d like to give it a try, you can find several very helpful videos:

Pointillism Techniques

Paint Like Seurat in 7 Easy Steps

Pointillism Tutorial

Seurat was not the only artist who used the pointillism technique. Others were Paul Signac, Henri-Edmond Cross, and Maximillian Luce. These were all artists in Paris who became part of the “Neo-Impressionist” movement. Other artists tried using pointillism during their careers — Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky and others.

Seurat’s famous painting of La Grande Jatte resides now at the Art Institute of Chicago, and I hope someday to visit and see this well-known work of art. To me, that would be a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

You can learn even more about the painting at the Institute’s website, which includes this information:

“Bedlam,” “scandal,” and “hilarity” were among the epithets used to describe what is now considered Georges Seurat’s greatest work, and one of the most remarkable paintings of the nineteenth century, when it was first exhibited in Paris. Seurat labored extensively over A Sunday on La Grande Jatte—1884, reworking the original as well as completing numerous preliminary drawings and oil sketches (the Art Institute has one such sketch and two drawings). With what resembles scientific precision, the artist tackled the issues of color, light, and form. Inspired by research in optical and color theory, he juxtaposed tiny dabs of colors that, through optical blending, form a single and, he believed, more brilliantly luminous hue. To make the experience of the painting even more intense, he surrounded the canvas with a frame of painted dashes and dots, which he, in turn, enclosed with a pure white wood frame, similar to the one with which the painting is exhibited today. The very immobility of the figures and the shadows they cast makes them forever silent and enigmatic. Like all great masterpieces, La Grande Jatte continues to fascinate and elude.

From – The Art Institute of Chicago

Without a doubt, the painting does fascinate and elude us, and maybe this accounts for its enduring popularity. I look forward to someday seeing this painting.




  1. Wow! Two years! Not sure I’d have the commitment or focus to do that. However, I did spend some enjoyable time following your link and reading more of the interesting facts about this painting. I didn’t realise Seurat died at such a young age. It makes me wonder what else he might have created.
    I’d love to see this in real life because I know photos never do artworks any real justice. I attended the Klimt exhibition in Ottawa and was blown away. I don’t even bother to look at photos of his work any longer. There’s just no comparison.
    I’m learning a lot from your posts. With gratitude.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I so agree that there’s no comparison between seeing works in person and seeing reproductions of them in books or films. I would love so much to see Klimt’s work up close! That must have been incredible. I have seen an Van Gogh exhibition, and the paintings — in person– truly leave you breathless. It’s absolutely impossible to describe. I am hoping that in the next year or so (depending on Covid) my granddaughter and I can go to Chicago to visit the art institute. They have so many paintings I want to see! I’m glad you’re enjoying the posts!


    1. How interesting! I love seeing ways in which art, music, books, and film all connect. Right now I’m reading a novel right now about a Vermeer painting (Not “The Girl with the Pearl Earring” but another) and I’m really enjoying it, just because it’s about art! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It was an incredible play. They incorporated projection technology into the scenes. Amazing! I recommend the book, “The Marriage of Opposites” by Alice Hoffman. It is a fantastic book based on the life of artist Camille Pissarro. A fantastic read! One of my favorites by Hoffman. Enjoy!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. From what I’ve read, he was a remarkable man, very much a “father figure” for a lot of younger artists. That’s how I see him… sort of as a mentor for me. 🙂 Off now to check our card catalog online! I hope I can find the book.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yes! It’s in our library system, so I’ve placed a “hold” on it. I hope to have it soon. I’m so glad you mentioned the book. 🙂 Thanks again.


  2. there was a video i watched on youtube awhile back about this particular place and the painters who often painted it..i wish i could remember what it was…part of some series..anyway, i used to think pointillism was what i was doing for about a year, but i was actually just micro-dotting because i wasn’t using color. So i tried using color and failed miserably..lol

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL… I’ve done “dotting” (or “stippling”, as it’s called in ink lessons) but I’ve never tried using dots of color except for tiny little “practice” swatches when I’m studying color theory. I am fascinated, though, by the “optics” ideas, and I want to start incorporating more color blending into my oil paintings, not as pointillism, but just as a way of creating different light/shadow effects.

      Liked by 1 person

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