Title: (Fill in your school's name) Salutes Georges Seurat's "A Sunday
Afternoon on the Great Island of Grand Jatte"
Suggested Grade Level: 7,8
Estimated Time: One or two class periods
Influenced by the Impressionists' experimentation with color, Impressionist
painter George Seurat worked with innovative techniques. On an enormous
canvas, the artist depicted city dwellers gathered at a park on La Grande Jatte
(literally, "the big platter"), an island in the River Seine. All kinds of
people stroll, lounge, sail, and fish in the park.
Using newly discovered optical and color theories, Seurat rendered his
subject by placing tiny, precise brush strokes of different colors close to one
another so that they blend at a distance. Art critics subsequently named this
technique Divisionism or Pointillism.
Over the past several decades, many scholars have attempted to explain the
meaning of this great composition. For some, it shows the growing middle
class at leisure. Others see it as a representation of social tensions between
modern city dwellers of different social classes, all of whom gather in the
same public space, but do not communicate with each other.
By exploring and practicing the Pointillist technique used by George Seurat
to paint A Sunday on La Grande Jatte -1884,
students are introduced to color mixing and the science of color perception.
Develop a basic understanding of how color is perceived by the eye
Discover how combination of primary colors create secondary colors
Red, yellow and blue tempera in jar lids
Photocopies of an empty color wheel (a circle divided into 6 equal sections)
Strong magnifying glasses
White drawing paper
Examine Georges Seurat's A Sunday on La Grande Jatte-1884
with students on the Web. Explain that Seurat studied color, light, and
form based on the most advanced information about color and visual perception.
He placed pure colors side by side by applying tiny strokes, dots and dashes
to the surface of the canvas.
Using the computer, experiment with both close up and distant points-of
view. Have students zoom in on the painting and record which colors are placed
next to each other on various parts of the canvas. As students zoom away from
the painting, ask them to identify the point at which colors seem to blend
Ask students: What new colors are created by this optical mixing?
explain that color is a phenomenon of light. As light strikes objects,
these objects reflect some of that light back to our eyes.
Have students paint an area of their color wheel with yellow tempera paint.
Explain how light travels to the eye.
When light strikes the yellow paint, all of the colors of the rainbow shine
on it, but yellow is the only one we see. This is because the yellow
wavelengths of light are reflected from the paint back to our eyes.
Color receptors in our eyes send a message of "yellow" to the brain.
Visible light is made up of the colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow,
green, blue, indigo, and violet. The rainbow of colors is called the
Explain that red, blue, and yellow are called the primary colors because
they are the basis for all other colors. Orange, green and purple are called
secondary colors because they are created by mixing parts of primary colors.
Ask students to look at Seurat's painting again. Discuss how the dots
interact to form new colors.
To make the point with another example, show students the comics page of a
newspaper. Have students examine the comics with a magnifying glass. Explain
that these are made using the Ben-Day process. Although only 4 colors are
used (the primaries and black) , the naked eye sees the effect of secondary
colors in the combination of tiny dots.
Encourage the students to create Pointillist picture by dipping cotton swabs
in the lids filled with tempera paint and making many dots and dabs to
produce a picture. Encourage them to try producing secondary colors by placing
dots of primary colors near or on top of one another.
Base students evaluation on their participation in class discussion of color