Georges Seurat
(Paris, 1859-1891, Paris)
Study for "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande-Jatte", 1884/85
Oil on panel, 15.6 x 25.2 cm
Dorra/Rewald 117; Hauke 127
Georges Seurat painted during a brief decade only, but he produced six great compositions, adding a new chapter to Impressionism and altering the character of French and European painting. The second and most important picture of this series is "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of the Grande-Jatte" in the Art Institute of Chicago. Paul Signac called it the "tableau-manifeste" of Neo-Impressionism. Seurat spent nearly two years on this painting, and did more preparatory sketches for it than for any other work. The Dorra/Rewald Catalogue lists 31 oil sketches and 24 chalk drawings. The small, 15 x 25 cm oil sketches on wood, called "croquetons" by Seurat, are concerned with the harmonizing of the sun-and-shadow landscape with the strolling, standing and seated human figures, while the larger chalk drawings are mainly restricted to human and animal figures. In a letter to Félix Fénéon of 20 June 1890, Seurat stresses the fact that he began the studies and the picture on Ascension Day 1884; thus the oil sketches done from nature and the picture, which evolved slowly, must have been done simultaneously. When the "Grande-Jatte" was shown for the first time in May/June 1886 at the eighth and last Impressionist exhibition, Impressionism as such came to an end, to make way for new developments.