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Georges Seurat, Study for 'La Grande Jatte'

Key facts
Full title Study for 'La Grande Jatte'
Artist Georges Seurat
Artist dates 1859 - 1891
Date made 1884-5
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 16 × 25 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Heinz Berggruen, 1995
Inventory number NG6556
Location Room 43
Collection Main Collection
Study for 'La Grande Jatte'
Georges Seurat

This is one of the earliest studies for A Sunday on La Grande Jatte of 1884–6 (Art Institute of Chicago), and was very likely painted on location. As this sketch was painted in the morning, the sunlight and shadows are the reverse of other studies and of the final painting itself, which shows the island in the afternoon.

Shining from the south-east, the sun lights up the foreground. The middle ground is in shade because the sunlight cannot penetrate the dense overhead foliage. Despite the extensive shaded areas, Seurat has used touches of golden-yellow throughout. These provide a warm tone and unify the composition.

Although Seurat has included several figures, his focus here is on the colours of the grassy area that fills almost three-quarters of the picture. His colour choices were based upon his direct observation of the landscape, but they were also informed by his knowledge of contemporary colour theory.

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