Updated August 2, 2022.
Georges Seurat’s most famous painting, pictured above, is Sunday at La Grand Jette. You might know it as “Sunday in the Park.” The cool thing about Seraut is that his technique consisted of painting with tiny brush strokes, mostly dots and dashes, in a technique called pointillism. As you move closer to the painting, the images dissolve into a mass of dots. If you start close and move away, suddenly the picture pops into view. This is the very first painting to use the technique.
My mother, an artist, used his paintings to teach me about the effect of complementary colors when I was a girl. While this was revolutionary at the time, today we see things reproduced as distinct bits of color all the time. We call them pixels.
This has some interesting resonances with needlepoint. His ideas about color came from the researches on color in tapestries, and he used distinct blobs of pure color and let the eye mix the blobs into the blended shades. It sounds kind of like needlepoint, doesn’t it?
We call that optical color mixing and do it all the time in our stitching.
But the whole idea of a chaos of color resolving into a picture is also something we should remember. We look at our needlepoint from stitching distance, and we see the points. But we should step back and look at it from viewing distance. This way we can easily see the effect our needlepoint will have on others.
As I said, I knew this from childhood, but I had never actually seen a Seurat painting until the early 1980s at an Impressionist exhibit in SF. I must have driven my mother-in-law crazy by going up as close as I could to his paintings then moving back. I delighted in seeing this effect up close and personal. Other Impressionists do similar things, but not exclusively as Seurat did.
By the way, if you’re ever in Chicago, go to the Art Insititute to see La Grande Jette both up close and from across the room.