About This Artwork

Georges Seurat
French, 1859-1891

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte — 1884, 1884/86

Oil on canvas
81 3/4 x 121 1/4 in. (207.5 x 308.1 cm)
Inscribed at lower right: Seurat

Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection, 1926.224

In his best-known and largest painting, Georges Seurat depicted people relaxing in a suburban park on an island in the Seine River called La Grande Jatte. The artist worked on the painting in several campaigns, beginning in 1884 with a layer of small horizontal brushstrokes of complementary colors. He later added small dots, also in complementary colors, that appear as solid and luminous forms when seen from a distance.

Seurat's use of this highly systematic and "scientific" technique, subsequently called Pointillism, distinguished his art from the more intuitive approach to painting used by the Impressionists. Although Seurat embraced the subject matter of modern life preferred by artists such as Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, he went beyond their concern for capturing the accidental and instantaneous qualities of light in nature. Seurat sought to evoke permanence by recalling the art of the past, especially Egyptian and Greek sculpture and even Italian Renaissance frescoes. As he explained to the French poet Gustave Kahn, "The Panathenaeans of Phidias formed a procession. I want to make modern people, in their essential traits, move about as they do on those friezes, and place them on canvases organized by harmonies of color." Some contemporary critics, however, found his figures to be less a nod to earlier art history than a commentary on the posturing and artificiality of modern Parisian society.

Seurat made the final changes to La Grande Jatte in 1889. He restretched the canvas in order to add a painted border of red, orange, and blue dots that provides a visual transition between the interior of the painting and his specially designed white frame.

— Permanent collection label

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Paris, Maison Dorée, 1, rue Laffitte, VIIIème Exposition de peinture, May 15–June 15, 1886, cat. 175.

Paris, Rue des Tuileries, IIème Exposition de la Société des Artistes Indépendants, August 21–September 21, 1886, cat. 353.

Brussels, Musée de l’Art Modern, IVe exposition annuelle de XX, February, 1887, cat. 1.

Paris, Pavillon de la Ville de Paris, VIIIème Exposition de la Société des Artistes Indépendants, March 19–April 27, 1892, cat. 1082.

Paris, 23 Boulevard des Italiens, Exposition de La Revue Blanche, Georges Seurat: Oeuvres peintes et dessinées, March 19–April 5, 1900, cat. 17.

Paris, Grandes Serres de la Ville de Paris (serre “B” de la Champs de la Reine, Aval-Alma), 21me Exposition de la Société des Artistes Indépendants. Éxposition Rétrospective Georges Seurat (1859-1891), 1905, cat. 18.

Paris, Galeries Bernheim-Jeune et Cie, Georges Seurat (1859-1891), December 14, 1908–January 9, 1909, cat. 58.

Paris, Galeries Bernheim-Jeune, Exposition Georges Seurat, January 15–31, 1920, cat. 23.

Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Exhibition of Modern French Paintings from the Birch-Bartlett Collection, April–September, 1925, checklist no. 9.

Boston Art Club, Birch-Bartlett Collection of Modern French Paintings, December 9-16, 1925, checklist no. 26.

The Art Institute of Chicago, A Century of Progress Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture, June 1–November 1, 1933, cat. 370.

The Art Institute of Chicago, A Century of Progress Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture, June 1–November 1, 1934, cat. 324.

The Art Institute of Chicago, Art of the United Nations, November 16, 1944–January 1, 1945, no cat. no.

The Art Institute of Chicago, Seurat: Paintings and Drawings, January 16–March 7, 1958, cat. 101, traveled to New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Seurat: Paintings and Drawings, March 24–May 11, 1958.

The Art Institute of Chicago, The Art of the Edge: European Frames 1300-1900, October 17–December 14, 1986, not included in the catalogue.

The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago’s Dream, A World’s Treasure: The Art Institute of Chicago 1893-1993, November 1–January 9, 1994, no cat. no, pl. 21.

The Art Institute of Chicago, Seurat and the Making of La Grande Jatte, June 16–September 19, 2004, cat. 80.

Publication History

Jules Christophe, Georges Seurat (Paris, 1890).

Gustave Kahn, “Seurat,” L’Art Moderne 11 (April 5, 1891), pp. 107-10.

Henry van de Velde, “Georges Seurat,” La Wallonie 6 (March/April 1891), pp. 167-71.

Emile Verhaeren, “Mort de Georges Seurat,” La Nation (April 1, 1891).

Emile Verhaeren, “Georges Seurat,” La Société nouvelle (April 30, 1891), pp. 430-38.

Téodor de Wyzewa, “Georges Seurat,” L’Art dans les Deux Mondes 22 (April 18, 1891), pp. 263-64.

Jules Christophe, “Seurat,” La Plume (September 1, 1891).

Paul Signac, D’Eugène Delacroix au néo-impressionnisme (Paris, 1899).

Emile Verhaeren, “Georges Seurat,” L’Art Moderne 15, 13 (April 1, 1900), p. 104.

Thadée Natanson, “Un Primitif d’aujourd’hui: Georges Seurat,” La Revue Blanche 21 (April 1900), pp. 610-14.

Emile Verhaeren, “Notes: Georges Seurat,” La Nouvelle Revue Française 1 (February 1, 1909), p. 92.

Roger Fry, “The Post-Impressionsists,” in Manet and the Post-Impressionists, exh. cat. (Grafton Galleries, London, 1910-11), pp. 8-9.

Lucie Cousturier, “Georges Seurat,” L’Art Décoratif 27 (20 June 1912), pp. 357-72.

Elie Faure, Les Constructeurs (Paris, 1914).

Félix Féneon, “Georges Seurat,” Bulletin de la Vie Artistique 7 (14 May 1914); reprinted in Félix Fénéon, Oeuvres plus que complètes, ed. Joan Halperin (Geneva, 1970), pp. 293-94.

Roger Bissière, “Notes sur l’art de Seurat,” L’Esprit Nouveau 1 (Oct. 1920), pp. 13-28.

André Salmon, “Georges Seurat,” The Burlington Magazine 37 (September 1920), pp. 115-22.

Roger Fry, “Retrospect” in Vision and Design (London, 1920), pp. 188-199.

Lucie Cousturier, Seurat (Paris, 1921), p. 17, pl. 11.

J. Carré. “Le Grand Art. Georges Seurat,” La Vie (September 1, 1922).

André Salmon, Propos d’atelier (Paris, 1922).

André Lhote, Georges Seurat (Rome, 1922), pl. 4.

André Lhote, “Seurat” in Parlons peinture, 1922; reprinted in Ecrits sur la peinture (Brussels, 1946).

Walter Pach, “Georges Seurat (1853-1891),” The Arts 3 (March 1923), pp. 160-74.

Walter Pach, Georges Seurat (New York, 1923), pl. 6.

Gustave Coquiot, Seurat (Paris, 1924), pp. 214-19, ill. opp. p. 216, 247.

Félix Fénéon, “Précisions concernant Seurat,” Bulletin de la Vie Artistique (15 August 1924); reprinted in Félix Fénéon, Oeuvres plus que complètes, ed. Joan Halperin (Geneva, 1970), pp. 467-68.

Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings by Georges Seurat, foreward by Walter Pach (New York, Brummer Galleries, 1924).

Guy Eglinton, “The Theory of Seurat,” International Studio 81 (May 1925), pp. 113-17.

Félix Fénéon, “Georges Seurat und die oeffentliche Meinung,” Der Querschnitt 6 (October 1926), pp. 767-70.

Roger Fry, “Georges Seurat,” The Dial 1926, reprinted in R. Fry, Transformations, Critical and Speculative Essays on Art, 1926, pp. 188-96 and Sir Anthony Blunt, Seurat (1965), pp. 9-22.

Amédée Ozenfant, “Seurat,” Cahiers d’Art 7 (September 1926), p. 172.

Florent Fels, “La Peinture française aux XIXe et Xxe siècles, Seurat,” A.B.C. Magazine d’Art (1927), pp. 282-87.

André Lhote, “Expositions Seurat et Roger de la Fresnaye,” (1927); reprinted in La Peinture, Le Coeur et l’Esprit (Paris, 1933).

Claude Roger-Marx, “Georges Seurat,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts (December 1927), pp. 311-18.

Christian Zervos, “Un Dimanche à la Grande Jatte et la technique de Seurat,” Cahiers d’Art 9 (1928), pp. 361-75.

Alfred Barr, The Museum of Modern Art First Loan Exhibition New York November 1929; Cézanne, Gauguin, Seurat, Van Gogh, exh. cat. (Museum of Modern Art, New York 1929), pp. 23-27.

Robert Rey, “Seurat,” in La Peinture française à la fin du XIXe siècle, La Renaissance du Sentiment Classique, Degas, Renoir, Gauguin, Cézanne, Seurat (Paris, 1931), pp. 95-134.

B.E. Werner, “Georges Seurat,” Die Kunst 65 (February 1932), pp. 147-52.

F. Walter, “Du Paysage Classique au surréalisme: Seurat,” Revue de l’Art Ancien et Moderne 63 (April 1933), pp. 165-76.

P. Signac, “Les étapes de la peinture contemporaine: Georges Seurat,” Beaux-Arts (December 15, 1933), p. 1.

Lévy-Gutmann, “Seurat et ses amis,” Art et Décoration 63 (Jan. 1934), pp. 36-37.

Paul Signac, “Le néo-impressionisme,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts 11 (January 1934), pp. 49-59.

Daniel Catton Rich, Seurat and the Evolution of “La Grande Jatte” (Chicago, 1935).

Meyer Schapiro, “Seurat and “La Grande Jatte”," The Columbia Review 17 (November 1935), pp. 9-16.

A. Watt, “Art of Georges Seurat,” Apollo 23 (March 1936), pp. 168-69.

J. Hélion, “Seurat as a predecessor,” The Burlington Magazine 69 (July 1936), pp. 4-14.

Paul Signac, “The Neo-Impressionist Movement,” in Seurat and his Contemporaries, exh. cat. (London, Wildenstein, 1937).

Georges Duthuit, “Seurat’s System,” The Listener 17, 421 (February 3, 1937), pp. 210-11.

D. Goldring, “London Art News: Seurat and His Contemporaries,” London Studio 13 (April 1937), p. 219.

“Seurat,” Apollo 32 (July 1940), pp. 11-12.

R. J. Goldwater, “Some Aspects of the Development of Seurat’s Style,” Art Bulletin 23 (June 1941), pp. 117-30.

Lionello Venturi, “The Art of Seurat,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts (July-Dec. 1944), pp. 421-30.

John Rewald, Georges Seurat (New York, 1946).

Georges Duthuit, “Georges Seurat, Voyant et physicien,” Labyrinthe [Geneva] (December 1946).

Germain Seligman, The Drawings of Georges Seurat (New York, 1947).

André Lhote, Seurat (Paris, 1948).

André Lhote, “Le classicisme de Seurat; excerpts,” Arts (June 18, 1948), p. 2.

Thadée Natanson, “L’Ecole de Seurat,” in Peints à leur tour (Paris, 1948), pp. 121-29.

John Rewald, “Seurat: the meaning of the dots,” Art News 48 (April 1949), pp. 24-27, 61-63.

Umbro Apollonio, “Disegni di Georges Seurat,” in XXV Biennale di Venezia, Catalogo (Venice, 1950), pp. 175-79.

“Sunday at the Grande Jatte,” Life 31 (July 23, 1951), pp. 60-64.

“Pointillism with Paint and Camera,” Design 53 (March 1952), p. 141.

John Rewald, “Seurat and His Friends,” in Seurat and His Friends, exh. cat. (New York, Wildenstein, 1953).

Terence Mullaly, “Pointillists,” Apollo 63 (June 1956), pp. 185-89.

D.C. Rich, ed., Seurat Paintings and Drawings, exh. cat. (Chicago, 1958).

D. C. Rich, “Place of Seurat,” Art Institute Quarterly 52 (February 1958), pp. 1-5.

L. Katz, “Seurat: Allegory and Image,” Arts 32 (April 1958), pp. 40-47.

Meyer Schapiro, “New Light on Seurat,” Art News 57 (April 1958), pp. 22-24, 44-45, 52.

J. O. Kerr, “Seurat: the Silent Post-Impressionist,” Studio 155 (May 1958), pp. 129-33.

Robert L. Herbert, “Seurat in Chicago and New York,” The Burlington Magazine 100 (May 1958), pp. 146-155.

Robert L. Herbert, “Seurat and Jules Chéret,” Art Bulletin 40 (June 1958), pp. 156-58.

William I. Homer, “Seurat’s formative period: 1880-1884,” Connoisseur 142 (September 1958), pp. 58-62.

Henri Dorra and John Rewald, Seurat (Paris, 1959), no. 139 (ill.).

Robert L. Herbert, “Seurat and Puvis de Chavannes,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin 25 (October 1959), pp. 22-29.

Robert L. Herbert, “Seurat and Emile Verhaeren: Unpublished Letters,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts 54 (December 1959), pp. 315-28.

César M. De Hauke, Seurat et son oeuvre 2 vol. (Paris, 1961), no. 162.

John Russell, Seurat (London, 1965).

John House, "Meaning in Seurat's Figure Painting,"Art History 3, 3 (September 1980), pp. 345-56.

Richard Thomson, “ ‘Les Quat’ Pattes’: The Image of the Dog in Late Nineteenth-Century French Art,” Art History 5 (September 1982), pp. 331-37.

Jeroen Stumpel, "The Grande Jatte, that patient tapestry," Simiolus 14 (1984), pp. 209-24.

Richard Thomson, Seurat (Oxford, 1985), pp. 97-126.

Richard R. Brettell, “The Bartletts and the ‘Grande Jatte:’ Collecting Modern Painting in the 1920s,” Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 12, 2 (1986), pp. 103-113 (ill.).

Alan Lee, “Seurat and Science,” Art History 10 (June 1987), pp. 203-26.

S. Hollis Clayson, “The Family and the Father: The Grande Jatte and its Absences,”
The Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 14, 2 (1989), pp. 155-72.

Stephen F. Eisenman, “Seeing Seurat Politically,” The Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 14, 2 (1989), pp. 211-21.

Mary Mathews Gedo, “The Grande Jatte as the Icon of a New Religion: A Psycho-Iconographic Interpretation,” The Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 14, 2 (1989), pp. 223-37.

John House, “Reading the Grande Jatte, ” The Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 14, 2 (1989), pp. 115-31.

Linda Nochlin, “Seurat’s Grande Jatte: An Anti-Utopian Allegory,” The Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 14, 2 (1989), pp. 133-53.

Richard Thomson, “The Grande Jatte: Notes on Drawing and Meaning,” The Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 14, 2 (1989), pp. 181-97.

Michael Zimmerman, “Seurat, Charles Blanc, and Naturalist Art Criticism,” The Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 14, 2 (1989), pp. 199-209.

Jean Claude Lebensztejn, Chahut (Paris, 1989).

Natasha Staller, “Babel: Hermetic Languages, Universal Languages, and Anti-Languages in fin de siècle Parisian Culture,” Art Bulletin 76 (June 1994), pp. 331-54.

Fritz Novotny, Painting and Sculpture in Europe, 1780-1880 (New Haven, 1995), p. 370.

Paul Smith, Seurat and the Avant-Garde (New Haven, 1997).

Suzanne Folds McCullagh, “‘A Lasting Monument’: The Regenstein Collection at the Art Institute of Chicago,” Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 26, 1 (2000), p. 13.

Jane Block, Le Néo-Imoressionnisme de Seurat á Paul Klee, Exh. cat. (Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 2005), ill.14-15, p. 16-21, p. 27-29, p. 32, p. 64, p. 74, p. 76, p. 85, p. 97, p. 108, p. 112, p. 122.

Martha Tedeschi, “Study of Trees, 1884,” Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 26, 1 (2000), pp. 82-83, cat. 36, fig. 29.

Richard Shiff, Jodi Hauptman, Hubert Damisch, and Richard Thomson, “Seurat Distracted,” “Medium and Miasma: Seurat’s Drawings on the Margins of Paris,” “Polka Dots and Moonbeams,” and “The Imperatives of Style: Seurat’s Drawings,” George Seurat: The Drawings, Exh. cat. (The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2007), p.18, p. 110, ill. 111, p. 122, p. 123, p. 171.

Basel, Switzerland, Kunstmuseum Basel, Vincent van Gogh- Between Earth and Heaven: The Landscapes, 2009, Fig. 45, p. 82, p. 86.

Mary Mathews Gedo, Monet and His Muse: Camille Monet in the Artists Life, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2010. p. 39, p. 58, p. 164.

Richard R. Brettell, Pissarro’s People. New York: Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, 2011. p. 202, p. 208, p. 217, fig. 154.

Homburg, Cornelia. 2010. “Imagining City and Country.” In Vincent Van Gogh: Timeless Country – Modern City. Exh. cat., pp. 29-30. Skira.
Jean-Michel Nectoux, “Je veux Écrire mon Songe Musical…,” Debussy: La Musique et les Arts. Exh. cat. (Musée d’Orsay, 2012), p. 26.

Jennifer A. Thompson, “Van Gogh and Close-up Techniques in 19th-century French Painting,” Van Gogh: Up Close. Exh. cat. (Yale UP, 2012), p. 69.

Joseph J. Rishel, “Arcadia 1900,” Gauguin, Cézanne, Matisse: Visions of Arcadia Exh. cat (Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2012), p. 7, p. 48, p. 50, fig. 49.

Gavin Parkinson, "Method and Poetry: Georges Seurat's Surrealist Dialectic," The Art Bulletin 99, no. 3 (Sept. 2017), pp. 126–27, 131–33, 145n70, 145n72, fig. 5, fig. 6 (detail).

Ownership History

By descent to Mme. Seurat, the artist’s mother (died 1899), Paris, 1891; by descent to Emile Seurat, the artist’s brother; sold for 800 francs to Casimir Brû, Paris, 1900; given by him to his daughter, Lucie, Paris, 1900; Lucie Brû Cousturier and Edmond Cousturier, Paris; sold for $20,000 possibly through Charles Vildrac, Paris to Frederic Clay and Helen Birch Bartlett, Chicago, 1924; given to the Art Institute, 1926.

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