“This is a world both real and unreal – a sacred world. We are often harried by life’s pressures and its speed, and many of us think at times: Stop the world, I want to get off! In this painting, Seurat has “stopped the world,” and it reveals itself as beautiful, sunlit, and silent – it is Seurat’s world, from which we would never want to get off.”
— Sister Wendy Beckett
Not our Sunday, bien-sûr, but a brighter, better Sunday: A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of la Grande Jatte (1884), the vision of Georges Seurat, French pointillist, about whom art historian and commentator Sister Wendy Beckett continued:
“Seurat’s Grande Jatte is one of those rare works of art that stand alone; its transcendence is instinctively recognized by everyone. What makes this transcendence so mysterious is that the theme of the work is not some profound emotion or momentous event, but the most banal of workaday scenes: Parisians enjoying an afternoon in a local park. Yet we never seem to fathom its elusive power. Stranger still, when he painted it, Seurat was a mere 25 (with only seven more years to live), a young man with a scientific theory to prove; this is hardly the recipe for success. His theory was optical: the conviction that painting in dots, known as pointillism or divisionism, would produce a brighter color than painting in strokes.”
It is an enormous painting, nearly lifesize, and when come upon unawares in the Chicago Art Institute, can bowl you over. It bowled over Stephen Sondheim, who transformed the painting into a hit Broadway musical, “Sunday Afternoon in the Park with George(s).” Once seen, never forgotten: as testified by this photo in El Parque del Retiro, Madrid’s largest city park, snapped in homage to the Seurat, but facing to the right:
Occurs to me, Sister Wendy Beckett is a story in her own quite wondrous light…
You’re right. Unbelievably I’ve never seen her videocasts. I’ve just put her Grand Tour at the top of our Netflix queue —
Ahhhh, pointillism 🙂
Pointillism! I did this with the kids a week ago; they loved it!
OMG, Of course! I forgot it began with pointillism, because you had so much fun (la la la Whatev) doing it, but I just recalled it as art. And then I read about the yoga sequel to the day, when you became a human PEZ dispenser, and it was so funny it drove everything else out of my mind.
But pointillism would be a lot of fun. If you’ve never seen the painting itself (but maybe you have cuz it’s in Chicago which I think might be not far from you), Seurat put a big wooden frame around the whole 6’10” x 10′ something canvas, and then proceeded to paint the whole frame, dot by dot by dot by dot by……….
I have seen the picture live in Chicago (I grew up 90 minutes outside of the city, so visited it a few times a year); and it took my breath away. It was (is) simply awesome.
It reminds me a little bit of “Phil”, and the way Chuck Close makes the image with his fingerprint. Pretty cool as well. 🙂
Now I have to look up “Phil,” which I don’t know.
Good to have something to do via Google as it snowed again last night (and is still snowing this morning) and who knows when we’ll get outside again? We still have peanut butter —
I’m leaving the Seurat up at least another day, it warms my heart to look at it and remember spring and summer.