Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

“A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” by Georges Seurat

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat - Joy of Museums - Art Institute of Chicago

“A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” by Georges Seurat

“A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” is one of Georges Seurat’s most famous works, and is a leading example of pointillism technique on a large canvas. Seurat’s composition depicts Parisians at a provincial park on the banks of the River Seine. Seurat was one of the leaders of a new and rebellious form of Impressionism called Neo-Impressionism.

Seurat spent over two years painting this masterpiece, and he focused with meticulous detail on the landscape of the park. He reworked the original and completed many preliminary drawings and oil sketches. He concentrated on issues of colour, light, and form. The Island of La Grande Jatte, when Seurat began the painting in 1884, was a rural retreat far from the city centre. Today it is part of a Paris business district.

Seurat was inspired by optical effects and perceptions of colour. He experimented with tiny dots or small brushstrokes of colours that when unified optically in the human eye were perceived as distinct colours and objects. He believed that this form of painting, now known as pointillism, would make the colours more brilliant and powerful than regular brushstrokes.

Huntington Theatre Company production of Sunday in the Park with George

A photo of the Huntington Theatre Company performing the theatrical musical of “Sunday in the Park with George.”

This painting inspired “Sunday in the Park with George” a theatrical musical. The plot revolves around a fictionalised version of Georges Seurat and how he immerses himself in painting his challenging masterpiece. The musical won the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, two Tony Awards for design and many other awards. In this musical, George announces to the audience:

“White, a blank page or canvas. The challenge: bring order to the whole, through design, composition, tension, balance, light and harmony.” 

Seurat was extremely disciplined and steered his own direction. He wanted to make a difference in the history of art and with this painting, and he succeeded.

 A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte

  • Title:             A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte
  • Artist:           Georges-Pierre Seurat
  • Year:             1884–1886
  • Medium:      Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: 207.6 cm × 308 cm (81.7 in × 121.25 in)
  • Museum:     Art Institute of Chicago

Georges Seurat


“Of course one should not drink much, but often.”
– Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec


Photo Credit: 1) Georges Seurat [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons 2) By The Huntington [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons