The A Sunday on La Grande Jatte is warm, bright, joyful, and peaceful when people at first sight, and it is hard for you to imagine this oil painting can be well preserved after a century especially in texture and color. By the perception, we know that some important art elements and designs are utilized in this painting like lines, color hormones, light, space, balance, emphasis and subordination, and texture. Furthermore, when viewers get closer to see that it is made up of countless little dots of color, which is pointillism called to emphasize a whole image through color stacking. Therefore, in such a warm and peaceful atmosphere of the painting, audiences can feel that the author, George Seurat is talented, patient, and passionate artist as he spends more than one year to study composition and color then drawing more than 400 sketches and color renderings.
The theme of A Sunday on La Grande Jatte describes looking outward—human need to look the here and now to notice what our life is like by place, time, and experiences. Meanwhile, looking inward—the human experience and feelings of this world also can be recognized like hope, happiness, wonder, doubt, loneliness, and sorrow. Moreover, La Grande Jatte as a natural world provides artist an inspiration the relationship among humans and environment—people who have different attentions and mood to enjoy a wonderful Sunday here to think about their future. Combining with those themes describe everyone regardless of what kind of experience and mood in such the beautiful and natural environment in the heart and soul will be pacified, soothing, and powerful.
In visual elements, like vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines are well and artfully applied to illustrate the direction and movement, which also creates a line of sight by implied lines in action. For example, the shadows, the sitting directions of people, mountains, and river bank are horizontal lines to express the calm and harmonious Sunday to bring various imaginations. Trees, either the post of standing or sitting, and boat are vertical lines showing the assertive, powerful, and growing for those upper-class visitors. There are not too many diagonal lines presented in painting, but we can observe the implied lines are diagonal like sun’s rays by shadow changes, the visual sight of the tourist makes us predict something interesting on the river. Another element of light emphasizes the forms and spatial relationship are essential. Actual light can be seen by sunshine, the umbrella angle, shadow directions, leaves on trees, and cloth color change of brightness. In order to make imply light more attractive and highlighted, Georges Seurat adopts the pointillism to use chiaroscuro and values to create mass like stippling. Therefore, color plays an important role in stippling to highlight the overall saturation and harmony. Cyan, magenta, yellow, and black are main four-primary colors are slowly piled up for one year to create a relative lightness and darkness.
No matter in intensity (Chroma and Saturation), warm color, triadic color, color harmonies or shade is successful. For instance, Georges Seurat utilizes the monochromatic color to reflect the variations of the green hue among tree, grass, and grass with shadows. Complementary color like red and green, blue-violet and yellow-orange, black and white, blue and orange are can be found from clothes. Analogous color like orange and yellow-orange, yellow-green and green, red-violet and violet and so on are compared by their dressing up and landscape. According to the data shows that Georges Seurat spends a lot of time and energy studying the theory of optics and color, which allowed countless tiny dots to create a toning effect on the retina. Hence, viewers can find that doting, solid color and optical toning are the main components of art for him. Finally, we cannot deny that artist uses implied space and illusionistic space reasonably to make audiences think more, to broaden our horizon, and to extend the scale of painting. For example, linear and atmospheric perspective is applied to the river bank, the distance of the tree, and sky—the color of the objects fades away until the end.
In principles of design, balance, emphasis and subordination, and rhythm are important visual elements to influence our visual weight. If this painting is divided by the lady who holds a red umbrella, we can find that both the number of figures and the color value are evenly distributed, which is called asymmetrical balance—use image size, position, color and complexity to balance the visual weight of the composition. Moreover, visual weight also affects viewer’s attention on emphasis and subordination. For example, the focal point is a woman in a purple dress, a lady in a red-and-pink suit with a little girl, and three people sitting under the tree. And you will find that the three focuses actually make up a triangle to provide stability to visual weight. Furthermore, another element is rhythm through similar shape like umbrella, standing and sitting alternately, and cap to yield visual harmony.
A Sunday on La Grande Jatte is a successful artwork as it creates pointillism (neo-Impressionism) to strongly influenced a painting technique innovation for artists, and to inspire the invention of television and display screens in the twentieth century. Meanwhile, neo-impressionism uses the mathematical structure in composition, which is ‘golden proportion’ to focuses on the detailed division of color, the whole and the parts, and the size of the figures. The ‘golden proportion’ can be seen in this drawing like optical effects of color that creates afterimage through simultaneous contrast. The color becomes less distinct and lighter to show the illusionistic space implied. And some triangle structure through character position to make this artwork more stable and independent. Neo-Impressionism does have a lot of impact on modern painting, although it does not have a great impact like ‘OP Art’ that is inspired by the new impressionism.
However, this is a great and meaningful artwork no matter in style, technique, or theories all play a key role in art and aesthetics. We admire George Seurat’s talent in the arts, learning and theories, attitude and experiences in creating. At the same time, expressionism, pragmatism and formalism of the aesthetic theories show that an outstanding art is full of vivid and sophistical emotion, to feel a warm and pleasant landscape, to understand the context of the nature and value when viewers admire the composition based on principle of design, elements, manipulation of materials, and original theory. In essence, pragmatism here more highlights women dressed beautifully and longed for a luxurious middle class, which is the social form that Seurat wants to depict. According to history and literature, many middle-class people would walk in La Grande Jatte as it was known as ‘the island of Cythera on the Seine’ in the 1880s, and the word ‘Seine’ was used to refer to prostitution at that time, so this place may implicate sex trade. Meanwhile, Maupassant wrote on Sunday Night that “the island and the Seine were crowded with lovers”.
Only the little girl with a white dress, who was the purest one in this painting without any color to express a symbol and the expectation of the society at that time. By the way, Georges Seurat learns the scientific theories of Michel Eugène Chevreul, Ogden Rood and Charles Blanc then to apply the divisionism to establish his theory of chromoluminarism. In the end, this oil painting is meaningful and valued to be defined as its special technique, context, visual harmony and aesthetics, and principle of designs.