seurat la grande jatte
Brussels, Musée de l’Art Modern, IVe exposition annuelle de XX, February, 1887, cat. 1.
The Art Institute of Chicago, A Century of Progress Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture, June 1–November 1, 1933, cat. 370.
Inspired by optical effects and perception inherent in the color theories of Michel Eugène Chevreul, Ogden Rood and others, Seurat adapted this scientific research to his painting.  Seurat contrasted miniature dots or small brushstrokes of colors that when unified optically in the human eye were perceived as a single shade or hue. He believed that this form of painting, called Divisionism at the time (a term he preferred)  but now known as Pointillism, would make the colors more brilliant and powerful than standard brushstrokes. The use of dots of almost uniform size came in the second year of his work on the painting, 1885–86. To make the experience of the painting even more vivid, he surrounded it with a frame of painted dots, which in turn he enclosed with a pure white, wooden frame, which is how the painting is exhibited today at the Art Institute of Chicago.
The results of investigation into the discoloration of this painting have been ingeniously combined with further research into natural aging of paints to digitally rejuvenate the painting.  
Explanation of Other Modern French Paintings
The two main artistic traditions that dominated modern art during the second half of the nineteenth century – Realist painting and Impressionism – evolved from painters’ direct observation of the world around them. In contrast, Georges Seurat based his painting on the theories of Divisionism (a scientific interpretation of how the eye sees colour), pioneered by Michel Eugene Chevreul, Ogden Rood and others. The two large genre paintings that made his reputation – Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte and Bathers at Asnieres – are perfect examples of his ‘new’ Impressionism – although calling it after Monet’s style of spontaneous plein-air painting is rather misleading. Seurat worked mostly in his studio and planned his compositions with meticulous attention to detail. Indeed, for La Grande Jatte he made over seventy preliminary drawings and oil sketches. For more on the impact of Seurat’s Neo-Impressionsm, see Italian Divisionism (1890-1907). For more about the two main traditions, and how they related to each other, see: Realism to Impressionism (c.1830-1900).
Though the subjects of A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte are rendered in an unrealistic and almost minimalist style, Seurat opted to place them in a range of positions (“of some we see the backs, some we see full-face, some in profile, some are seated at right angles, some are stretched out horizontally, some are standing up straight,” art critic Félix Fénéon remarked in 1886). This decision adds a sense of realism to the otherwise stylized depiction and helps draws the viewer into the receding scenery.
Georges Seurat, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,” 1884-1886 (Photo: The Art Institute of Chicago Public Domain)
The titular locale was a favorite of prostitutes on the prowl, so some historians suspect that fish are not what the fishing-pole-toting woman on the left was hoping to hook. The same speculation has arisen around the lady on the right, with a monkey on a leash and a man on her arm.
A Sunday on La Grande Jatte —1884 earns screen time in the Chicago-set comedy Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the science fiction cult classic Barbarella, and on the crude cartoon series Family Guy. It’s been parodied by Sesame Street, The Simpsons, the American version of The Office, and even the cover of Playboy. In Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd invade the painting. And celebrated Broadway icons Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine made a musical about its creation called, Sunday in the Park With George.