Monday, June 15, 2009


Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte, by George Seurat

Okay, I like this painting so much that I'm thinking of painting a 15'x8' copy of it on a jumbo canvas on a wall of my house.

Its a good idea, yeah? Should keep me off the street awhile. And, when I'm done, I'll have something really worth having.

Guess, I'm a little obsessed with this - but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

What's so great about this painting? It's pointillism for starters: millions of tiny brush strokes to create a light-infused painting of a summer day in Paris. Other than that, I have so much history with it that its pretty ridiculous. I first encountered it in the Art Institute of Chicago in 1962 and it was one of the most momentous encounters of my life. The damn thing just absolutely overwhelmed me (and still does). Seurat never did a lot more that anyone remembers, but this one really takes the cake.

The original of this is indeed about as big as my copy wants to be. It dominates a fair sized gallery at the art institute and I have probably visited it 100 times or more. I used to go regularly at lunch when I worked in Chicago and when I was a student in Chicago. In High School, I was always getting together and driving down to go to the Art Institute to see this thing. It put like a big ? into people's heads. I'd be blase, like "Oh, yeah, look at this thing." and watch as faces turned into rubber.

So, reproducing this on the wall promises to be a ridiculous challenge, but I'm not looking for 100% accuracy, just my take on the thing, in an amount of detail that I can live with. I'm either going to have to work with a projector or draw the thing out in sections from a small copy, but I think this might require a trip to Chicago with a digital camera to get the physical sense of the thing with the points of light and all.

Here's another picture that I met the same day in Chicago that was also overwhelming.

I'm not so sure about copying this one, but I do have a paint by number version that would be pretty happening to complete, so maybe I'll get to that, too. This one I later had the advantage of studying in college, as well, hearing lectures on, reading books about, etc. It's a pretty happening deal, too. American Gothic, by Grant Wood if you're keeping score at home. A couple of years ago we went to DC to a Grant Wood exhibition and took in a lecture by the author of the book "American Gothic" and came back the same day. Yeah, a little obsessive, I guess.
I guess I'm just getting around to understanding the importance of this stuff, but don't really get it yet. I probably ought to figure all of this out one day, but then again, eh.


  1. Have you ever heard of the concept of Pataphysics or read any of the writings of Seurat or his compatriots like Alfred Jarry?

    I would have supposed that you had read Jarry, he was one of my heroes as an adolescent. He wrote incoherent grand plays and was addicted to absinthe and ether.

    Seurat was a master of parody pseudo science...actually a grand prankster, but he invented ttheories of color and psychological idiocy meant to totally confuse the public.
    I think he was one of the first really conceptual artists.
    He was of course an excellent artist, and he made radical advances in the way we see color and the way color is presented conceptually.
    I saw a great Seurat show of just his graphite drawings last year in NYC. I was in awe.

    But his real accomplishment was the perfection of the art of total bullshit to explain the sophiosticated games he played with color and how it was percieved. Thsi took art fropm being a merely subjective visual experience to the level of conceptual play and opened the door for Marcel Duchamp and the gateway to total idiocy supreme as high art.

    Have you ever read any of the UBU plays by Jarry?

  2. Thanks for the update - I didn't know all of this background on Seurat. Most of what I read was just the usual bio stuff, no good background or historical perspective. I'll have to dig into this.

    Also, no I haven't read Jarry, but this sounds right up my alley. Thanks for the tip.

  3. Jarry and I have one thing in absinthe love affair. I also once painted my face green. I dressed up as the Green Fairy and threw a party. Or two. Or three. My friend was a vintner and made me a few batches in his distillery with wormwood, hyssop and other lovely herbs. We used the 1880 Pernod company recipe.