I recently visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art instituted in the period 1876 in the County of Philadelphia and located within 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway. During the visit, I was quite fascinated by a twenty-eight by thirty-four inch piece of art titled Gray weather, Grande Jatte created by Georges Seurat in the period 1888. The creation is an oil painting fashioned on canvas material under the style of impressionism. This painting style heavily relies on the application of pure primary colors in light strokes to reproduce the idea of light on the painting. Additionally, the artist acquires a holistic perspective in the art with the view of creating a general message within the picture. The green color is extensively used in the foreground on the trees and the vegetative cover across the trodden path. On a closer look, although in a well-concealed manner, I noticed that the painter had actually fused red and yellow pigments to achieve the desired ground.
The tree that appears to be in proximity to the drifting boat in the painting evidenced the red pigment on the path while the yellow is visible on the upper part of the trees. The trees leaves have a slightly higher proportion of the yellow color to mimic the effect that sun beams have on trees. The same is achieved on the path with the areas containing a high concentration of the yellow hue indicative of sunrays steaming through the leaves and onto the ground. The impressionist style is noted for its ability to create various light intensities in art to allow the viewer a varied movement in time as seen in the painting. The lake however maintains a gray color from the canvas used a hint of the period in which the painting captures. Grey is noted in stormy weathers or during a heavily clouded part of the day. The early part of a night also has a slightly grey illumination mixed with silver depending on the size of the moon and the timing.
The sky however has very mild touches of yellow pigment a connotation that the painting aims to capture a dull day. The boats in the picture are all stationary. The vessel on the fore ground is ties to two poles set within the water body with a smaller craft besides it. The large vessel is a steam engine craft as evidenced by the chimney meaning that the smaller boat has been let from the huge vessel for navigation purposes. Impressionist art always infused the element of movement in its theme as indicated by the small boat. The path amplifies this element although no one is walking on the path. However, the color used on the path has a dual effect that reflects a dusty road or one filled with decaying trodden leaves from the trees. Of course, the decaying process has to be attributed to human treading that has quickened the process on the ground as opposed to the vegetative part since dead leaves do not choose where to fall. Inferentially, the picture leaves the notion that a uniformed pattern would be noted if the whole area had been accorded the same treatment by the natives and visitors in the captured area.
The immobile water vessels beyond the stem engine amplify the element of movement, as the path seems to the connection between travelling and accessing the boats noted with the proximity of the vessels to the path. The border of the painting contains both shades of red and blue in varying lengths and concentration with the merging areas having a purple hue. The trees are used to break the horizontal motions (lines) enhanced by the path, the stem engine, mobile boat, trees and the horizon dimly painted in the background. This creates harmony in the painting as the horizontal and vertical lines in the two planes interact according to the shapes positioned. Their size in comparison to the tying posts in the water body amplifies the angle in which the painting is taken from or rather the viewing perspective. Additionally, it evidences the element of foreshortening by the fact that the trees appear larger then the post and other elements in the background infusing an element of distance.
The shades used in the picture vary between light and dark ones for contrast and the creation of realism in the portrait. Dark shades are accentuated by the tree, shadows cast by the stem engine and the other vessels and the frame. Employing huge items on the foreground creates an illusion of depth as the vessels appear on a lower plane that that which the trees are. Otherwise, if the painting had placed the trees and the waterline within the same plane, then depth would lack in the painting. Volume and mass are enhanced by the use of varying sizes of objects placed within a measurable proximity for the purposes of comparison. This aspect is clearly indicated by the steam engine and the small boat. The stem engine appears to be huge in terms of volume by the length and the height accorded to in contrast to the horizontal and vertical measurements on the small boat. Seurat therefore captures a normal theme in his painting with the fusion of various nature elements and this is a common practice in the impressionism style. With the amplification of simple life happenings, the level of identity with the audience is amplified as it matches common rational occurrences.
The painting used a canvas material for Seurat’s work. The colors were acrylic oil based primary hues. The approach used in the painting is pointillism that employs the use of dots to create a sensible piece of work. The dots were carefully placed on the canvas through a fine brush with the background colors bearing the initial precedence before the other contrasting colors are carefully added on. Note that, the colors used were pure ones in a bid to realize optimum radiance in the painting. The color blends and shadows in the painting had to be created by an additional layer of a different hue on the preceding layer until the whole painting was completed. Elements of depth, volume and distance had to be determined during the actual painting by the naked eye. The dots in the completed art appears infuses a shimmering look on the art which tends to capture a higher level of natural light in comparison to paintings that employ the use of secondary colors achieved by combining primary hues on a palette before being introduced on a material.
Seurat uses the interaction of bright colors to express the perceptual element of colors in according the communication that occurs between a painting and the audience. Critics had attacked the pointillism technique as inhibiting factors in the desired outcome. The main premise in this argument was based on the assertion that the level of fine-tuning achieved in the various hues used tended towards the creation of dull paintings attributed to the overall effect of the shades used in a paining. Seurat however attributed this effect to the unprofessional techniques of painting that relied on basis instincts and painters eyes for the creation of a perfectly balanced portrait. Therefore, he proposed the use of scientific technologies of paint division that would be used to attain the desired results. Scientific elements in art were advanced in the formulation of visual theories to ensure that the audiences’ imagery elements were imposed to a level that would ensure the communication of the exact message formulated within a painting. Seurat learned of the association between light and pigments by the scientific theory that the direction of light into a prism led to the formation of hues.
Seurat based his argument on the subtractive nature of colors that was responsible for the creation of dull paintings by the ability to draw the luminosity from the surrounding regions and consequently achieve a dreary painting. A human’s retina acts as the prism in the body and thus, reducing the block created by the bold use of color equals the amount of rays that are directed to the retina. The higher the number of light rays accomplished, the higher the precision acquire din the painting and consequently the radiance created. This element served as the foundation for Seurat’s painting with the use of the pointillist technique that enhanced the creation of highly pragmatic paintings. This is the uniqueness of Seurat when compared to the rest of the impressionist painters that based their paintings on eye instincts.
The painting was completed in a cultural setting that was highly divided in terms of cultural and intellectual aspects. The impressionist practitioners created a new school of painting that was different from the previous forms of art that were based on religious figures or ideologies by the ability to preserve daily practices in the highly stratified community in terms of economic influences. The revolutionary aspects within the discipline of art as initially achieved through the introduction of new themes in painting served as the historical influence responsible for Seurat’s diversion towards the neo-impressionist style of painting. With the nineteenth century culture marking the adoption and wide acceptance of scientific link with art, the ides of Seurat where highly accepted and practiced in art lone after his demise. His influences were therefore very significant and I share with the same perceptions on the fact that the painting has persisted over the years since its creation with the original message and impact during its inception and creation.
My Thoughts on the Painting
The painting marked a significant milestone in the art world in terms of color use leading to the foundation of the neo-impressionism painting style and this is why I chose to focus on it. I actually wanted to identify and compare the impressionist and neo-impressionist elements in the painting for a higher understanding of the painting styles. Additionally, unlike his other paintings, this focuses on the contrast element created by the dark elements achieved below the trees and the use of a steam engine as opposed to the sail boats that used in the rest of his drawings. These varieties therefore provided alternative details of focus that is different from the others. Subjectively, this meant and accorded a different level of challenge in the analysis necessitating critical thought. It also meant breaking from the monotony that is achieved by the similarities in his other paintings.
I was impressed by the precision that the painter achieves in the work as noted by the division of color. The harmony created in the art has a soothing effect as opposed to other impressionist paintings that tend to have discord in the crisscross-achieved using differentiated forms of hand strokes. I was rather disappointed by the uniformity created by the dots, as upon very close examination it tends to have a monotonous effect that interferes with the expressionism in the portrait. This could be corrected using various dots in terms of sizes in an ordered manner that upon closer examination adds another aspect of communication in the painting by enhancing the general picture created or a sub-section of the overall depiction. The use of the color was amazingly incorporated in the picture creating an astounding piece while the scientific influence behind the painting was very informative.