December 2nd is the birthday of Georges Seurat, whose famous painting- A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884–1886) revolutionized the art world. The painting serves as a prime example of the painting technique, Pointillism, in which small, distinct dots of color are applied in patterns to form an image.

The technique relies on the ability of the eye and mind of the viewer to blend the color spots into a fuller range of tones. The Pointillist theory holds that dots can only be distinguished from one another when viewing the work from a certain distance. The further away you are, the more “whole” it looks. Thanks to this technique that spaces out the applied colors, some areas of the canvas remain untouched and can still be seen. This gives the work an even brighter effect. Raw pigments retain their natural brilliance by virtue of not being mixed together…this is what makes Pointillism so innovative.

Similarly, Vision Therapy will at times employ a concept called “luster” used in fusion in which the eye sees two separate colors but over time brain perceives the colors as a different color altogether. A combination of red and blue becomes “fused” together by the brain to create purple. Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine dramatize Seurat’s technique in their musical, Sunday in the Park with George (I once appeared in a production of the show back in 2012 with a local community theater, Kensington Arts Theatre, playing the part of “The Boatman”).

The struggle of Seurat to meticulously paint his masterpiece through quick, dotted strikes is examined in Sondheim’s lyrics of the song, “Color and Light”:


More red
And a little more red
Blue, blue, blue, blue, blue, blue, blue, blue
Even, even
Bum bum bum
Bum bum bum bum bum bum
More red!
More blue!
More beer!

More light!

Clip of this scene:

So today we celebrate George Seurat’s genius which has enriched not only the world of art but how the mind perceives color.

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