Sauk Valley Community College

Humanities 210


Units Three and Four


Sunday in the Park
[click on picture to see larger version from WebMuseum]

The painting Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of Grande Jatte is one of the most famous works of art in the world. It currently hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago but it was first displayed in Paris at the Salon of the Independents in 1886, soon after its completion by its artist, Georges Seurat.

The painting took two years to complete and is the most well-known example of the technique called pointillism. While some art critics and historians see the painting as a commentary on middle-class Parisian attitudes and behaviors, others prefer to talk about Seurat's technique and his interest in the science of optics. More recently, however, historians have been reevaluating the picture in terms of how it was viewed in 1886 and what physical, social, and institutional contexts influenced Seurat's choices. Each of the next four pages will look at these four contexts in detail, leading up to the most complete reading of a painting we have done so far. Pay particular attention to how the information comes together to create this reading- this will help you understand what it is you are to do for the midterm.

But before continuing on to the contexts, take a look at an example of the hermeneutical circle as applied to the Grande Jatte.

The New Child: British Art and the Origins of Modern Childhood Also check out this site as an example of one of the ways a hermeneutical reading of a painting (or in this case, a school of paintings) may be done. But note--this is only one of several ways. Don't feel bound by this example. (It also has a cultural and political timeline that might come in handy for your Midterm.)



Please use Google for your research. (Be sure to click WWW for searches beyond this site.)