Friday, June 11, 2010

Lazing on a Sunday afternoon.

Remember the museum scene in Ferris Beuller's Day Off when Ferris' BFF Cameron locks eyes with and is transfixed by a little girl in a painting at The Art Institute of Chicago? According to our good friends at Wikipedia, "...the scene portrays Cameron observing the little girl up close whereupon he realizes that, though from a distance all seems in order, there is no shape or form to her face."

That painting, of course, is Un dimanche après-midi à l'Île de la Grande Jatte (A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of the Grand Jatte). It's one of painter Georges Seurat's most famous works, and likely the quintessential example of Pointillism, a technique he developed and for which he was ridiculed. During a trip to Chicago for my friend Gail's wedding last October, I took a quick detour to pay homage to Sunday Afternoon; it was like visiting an old friend:

It also happens that the painting's setting is in my 'hood, and I just came from a quick jog (all my jogs these days are quick) on the island. I got those familiar tender goosebumps I get when I know I'm treading on historic territory. In fact "la Jatte" wasn't Seurat's haunt alone: Claude Monet and Alfred Sisley (likely others) also get props for putting in some painterly time here. It's a beautiful spot, and easy to imagine how impressionists would've liked it for the play of light bouncing atop the Seine's waters.

Ile de la Jatte, Alfred Sisley, 1873, photo courtesy of Artchive Web Gallery

Today, of course, it's still a retreat for many, and there are restaurants, townhouses, tennis courts, office buildings, and a bus line that cuts across it.
I also enjoy it for the colorful man-made ruches, or beehives, sponsored by the town of Levallois, as well as for a crisp glass of white. Some of Roman's early steps were also captured on the island. Awww.

Me and My RC in front of les ruches

photo of me by Camille

baby steps by Roman, June 2009

above: Georges Seurat: Sunday Afternoon on the Island of the Grande Jatte, 1886, Art Institute of Chicago


  1. You know I must comment! I offer you a quote from the criticism of the eighth and final impressionist exhibition, 1886, where La Grande Jatte was shown. This is Paul Adam, saying it with style: "Personne ne comprit la beauté de ce dessin hiératique, la justesse des teintes jaunes où la foule des personnages se rapetisse graduellement vers les fonds. Le bois s'enfonce droit; ni bosquet, ni branche qui marquent les plans successifs, et les points de repère, ainsi que le veut, à tort, la coutume. Rien de factice dans cette profondeur obtenue sans même que les tons se dégradent: jusqu'aux dernières feuilles les valuers sont maintenues. Tout apparaît clair, net, sans brumes où s'esquiveraient les points difficiles. Une extraordinaire gamme de tons. Des roses de soie sur la robe d'un baby, proches des roses de laine sur la robe de la mère; toute une différence supérieurement notée. Et même la raideur des gens, les formes à l'emporte-pièce contribuent à donner le son du moderne, le rappel de nos costumes étriqués, collés au corps, la réserve des gestes, le cant britannique par tous imité....M. Seurat l'a parfaitement vu, compris, conçu et traduit avec le pur dessin des primitifs."

    It's funny, but I happen to be going over all the impressionist criticism, and this was open on my desk. Lovely to "see you" in Chicago!


  2. oh dis donc! Glad to know this "heretic" was appreciated in his lifetime, and you KNOW I was thinking of you the whole while that I typed this up, having talked about a) la grand jatte and b) my trip to Chicago. Thanks for checking in and adding some scholarship to my lowly blah blah blog! xo JHB

  3. To an Anglo everyone sounds smarter in French, so I let the other guy do the talking. So heureuse to catch up with you a bit!