Seurat’s “Sunday Afternoon on the Island” Art Appreciation

I introduced the girls to George Seurat and studied his famous painting of Sunday Afternoon on the Island of Grande Jatte.

  • The children put up a photograph of George Seurat and a mini gallery of his works on our wall chart.
  • We read a simple biography on Garden of Praise and looked at a slide show of some his works.
  • We studied the painting of Sunday Afternoon in our coffee table book on Impressionist Artists with a magnifying lens to see his pointillism technique.
  • Then we looked at his painting online on artchive for a zoomed, full-screen view.
  • We discussed The 7 Laws of Perspective (we had learnt in our previous art lesson on Van Gogh) and we could easily find several clear examples in Seurat’s composition.
  • We also enjoyed seeing his painting re-created in real life in these photos.
  • I had printed out a black and white picture and traced this outline drawing (click here to download ~Seurat’s Sunday Afternoon outline) for the girls. (I thought that we could divide the outline drawing into sections. They could select a part of the painting which I could enlarge for them on the photocopiers which they could paint in more detail, but they wanted to do the full painting.)

Seurat's Sunday Afternoon Outline

  • The girls first washed all the background areas and the people with the basic colour using watercolour paints.

First filling the background with watercolours

  • Then they took ear buds and dipped it in the watercolour and used pointilism technique to fill in the details on the picture.  This was a good way of creating Seurat’s dotty painting style.  My 10 year-old tried to keep her colours unmixed (red dot next to blue dot to make purple and not using purple from the pallet.)

Using ear buds to create pointillism

  • They discovered that they needed to paint all the people and trees first and then create the dotty effect.  The 1 child prefered to use a thin pointy paintbrush and not the ear bud to make her details stand out.

Painting dots with the point of her brush

  • A beautiful finished painting!  Done in about an hour and a half, with ease and enjoyment!

Miss. K's completed painting

Next week we will use our George Seurat biography notebook page and write our biography and study this painting again, or move on to the next masterpiece.

In creating these art appreciation lessons I felt that my children needed only become familiar with the works and the techniques used by master artists.  They will surely recognise their reproduced art in books, in films and in galleries.  I offer outline drawings to keep the stress to a minimum, to offer a quicker route to the result.  As they get older, I hope they will reproduce aspects of art without this support as Charlotte Mason suggests.

I would like to quote extracts about “Picture Study” from my Charlotte Mason Study Guide by Penny Gardner, (pages 126 & 127)

“… Study one artist at a time so children can become aware of that artist’s style and can recognize his works even when a particular painting was not studied.  Six works the artists should be studied.

You may first want to introduce the artist.  Tell enough about the artist to get the kids familiar with him, avoiding inappropriate personal details where necessary.  Sometimes you can find a picture book or a short biographical story about the artist, after the reading, to include in the notebook.

During the picture study sessions, let the children quietly look at the picture.  After they have had a couple of minutes to take it in, turn the picture over and ask for a narration. You’ll be amazed at the details children pick up – at their power of observation.

In another picture study session, let the child look at the same picture again.  Turn the picture over, after  a couple of minutes, ask for a sketch of the painting.  The third week, you might ask the child to make up an imaginative story that could possibly be behind the picture.  For the last week, you might ask for a verbal or pictorial narration of the same painting after studying it anew.  Place narrations and sketches in the notebook you are creating.”

Most mom’s avoid doing art lesson due to the mess and stress.  I have found Charlotte Mason’s method and approach liberating!  If my sample lessons offer any encouragement to take out some paints and crayons – that is a bonus!  Enjoy!

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7 thoughts on “Seurat’s “Sunday Afternoon on the Island” Art Appreciation

  1. Artist study need not be stressful. I think that if it is, it’s being done improperly. I mean, there’s not a true “proper” way to do it unless you’re just trying to totally follow CM. But it certainly shouldn’t be painful. Art should be a delight. Your girls have great attention spans; they can work on a project for an hour or more. My Sprite is this way too.

    • What a wonderful link! I’m sure everyone will enjoy seeing such an wonderful interpretation of Seurat’s painting! Thank you.

  2. Pingback: Seurat Pointillism Mural K – 6 Art

  3. Hi Nadene,
    I love your blog ! I’m trying to put next years lesson plan together and finding your blog ,with all of your ideas has been a blessing. Thank you for all your work. ………….Sue

  4. Pingback: Artistic Pursuits | hollysfollies

  5. I found your blog in my quest to use pointillism painting with my fifth-grade class in conjunction with our read-aloud, Liar & Spy, by Rebecca Stead. This painting plays a prominent role, as the main character, Georges (named after the artist, Georges Seurat), is taught by his mother to take a step back and look at the bigger picture; each event in life is like one dot in the painting. Thank you for all your ideas!

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