The Grande Jatte

The Grande Jatte

The art of painting is mysterious. For long centuries people used to pay attention to this colorful craft that depicts simple things from different angles. Many talented painters, either known or unknown, have been creating a great stuff of wonderful pictures that have become world’s great achievements. The science of history of art has developed simultaneously with the advent of the arts. In my opinion, Nochlin used a comparative context and analogical type of evidence to support her statements while describing Seurat’s The Grande Jatte, and Clayson applied historical context and statistical evidence analyzing the same work of art.

The paintings under review are Seurat’s Grande Jatte and Puvis’s Sacred Grove, however, the main focus of the researchers is factually on the work of Seurat. Linda Nochlin considers Grande Jatte picture as a great achievement of anti-utopian society and uses analogical evidence comparing the painting of Seurat to the one of Puvis’ e.g.: 1) She contrasts old-fashioned Pierre Puvis de Chevannes Sacred Grove to Grande Jatte as anti-utopian work of art; considering Seurat’s painting as anti-utopian allegory Nochlin finds the work a unique representation of post-impressionist art; 2) using an allegorical method she explored a Seurat’s work from an iconographic context including socially-cultural aspect of the epoch and possible symbolic meanings “hidden” in the picture; on the contrary Puvis de Chevannes’ work is considered from the somewhat historical context as she researches the chronology of each work e.g. year 1884 is a year of exhibition of Puvis’ work as well as the beginning of Seurat work at his painting. One more the third example of application of analogical evidence by Nochlin is 3) that she stated the outrageous contrast between the two works and their accordance to the epoch they were created. n contrast to Seurat whose women dress in conformity to the latest fashion and men smoke cigars on the background of up-to-date urbanity, Puvis’ antiquated scenery is filled with lasses in old-fashioned garments accompanied by the males holding some ancient tubes. The author does not detect any evident similarity between the two works except from their factual evidence based on the primary concept of men and women getting on together. Even the title of original work A Sunday on the Grande Jatte can be called abstract one opposing the idealized names of other artists’ paintings including Seurat’s. Thus, the readers can witness the application of comparative context to the analysis of the Grande Jatte.

Clayson S. Hollis in her article “The Family and the Father: the “Grande Jatte” and Its Absences” researched the painting from the historical context using the facts of statistical evidence. Therefore, she applied the gender method to her analysis counting the number of males, females and children who form either a heterogeneous family or stand on their own e.g. 1) she counted that women are more numerous than men on the Seurat’s painting, 2) that only one family consists of mother, father, and their child, while the other are not nuclear; 3) she found one men with his infant lying on his hands on the picture. The author depicted the actual cracked familial situation that has existed in the mid-1880s from the historical point of view as well. Clayson has found out the basic themes of the family and its leisure. It is interesting to define the extents to which Seurat featured the cracks in the family structure of bourgeois people whose only time of disobeying was Sunday. The freedom was gained by Parisians from their family obligations at a high cost. Therefore, the leisure seems undermining the traditional view on the family as a stable and coherent nuclear societal unit.

BBoth scientists Nochlin and Clayson applied their own specific methods of research for Seurat’s great painting Grande Jatte. Linda Nochlin made an analysis of the painting from comparative context opposing Seurat’s canvas to Puvis’ Sacred Grove whose artwork seems to be a little superficial and old-fashioned in contrast to the Grande Jatte. Moreover, the researcher used the analogical method to support the evidence, appropriate for the comparative context so the males on the first picture are compared to the males on the second etc. The strengths of this paper is that it discovers the sacred open-mindedness and broadened perception of the overall message of Seurat’s externalized depiction of leisure and families as a parodical representation of Puvis’ Sacred Grove. The weakness of the article is that it does not fully feature the universal meaning of the painting, its social iconographic context. Clayson established a deep connection of the picture with the historical epoch when it was created. She considered the painting as a wholesome product and result of late 1880’s bourgeois society using the statistical method of outnumbering males and females, single persons or members of the nuclear families. I think this method is useful from purely historical point of view establishing the connections between the decreasing family population and the existing situation in Paris at those times.

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The essays of both authors are persuasive to certain extents. The authors’ examples of evidence supported the conclusions. However, the data could have been used for maintaining alternative outcomes. I think both contexts have its advantages and disadvantages. In my opinion, the mix of different contexts and types of supportive materials would be the better choice for any analysis. Both researchers coped with their tasks fine, but I am the proponent of historical context.

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