Nochlin’s Silly Depiction of Seurat’s La Grande Jatte

Let us talk some art history. Linda Nochlin believes that Seurat’s La Grande Jatte is a refutation of Utopian ideals of Western society and civilization, and here is why she is wrong. La Grande Jatte is a mere mundane depiction of a boring Sunday afternoon painted in a interesting style. Do you honestly believe this painting has allegory that alludes to anti-Utopian ideals?

Let us look at what anti-Utopian means in the first place. An Utopian society is a perfect societal structure which is impossible to attain. Therefore , if such a framework cannot be attained, then aren’t well all living in anti-Utopian society?Maybe what Nochilin is trying to say is that simply Seurat detested the bourgeois class-system of modern society and their ability to enjoy a normal and relatively monotonous life.

Seurat’s unique style definitely does not fit into the normative elements of Western society in the 1890’s which is why, maybe, I could see why it can be seen as a refutation of western elements.How can this piece be a refutation of Western elements merely because of the de-personification of characters, and their lack of individuality exhibited by their lack of faces? Have I gone insane?

Perhaps, Seurat’s quixotic style has driven too many intellectuals and critiques to analyze things that matter little when the real issues are not located merely in the style and what is depicted, but rather in the history of the painting. Seurat painted this piece in 1884 in a crude exhibitionist manner of pointillism. The setting of the painting is the island of La Grande Jatte in Paris-which in essence was a leisure retreat for the wealthy bourgeois classes. It took Seurat two years to complete this amazing piece. Why did he do it? I don’t know. Money?


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