It seems that Georges Seurat inspires strong feelings in art viewers and critics. Seurat’s paintings are often criticized for being too scientific or too heavy on technique while showing little artistic inspiration. Others praise his use of color and stunning depictions of light. However you may feel about Seurat and his paintings, his most famous painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, is everywhere in pop culture. You see this painting referenced in everything from advertisements to cartoons, and that is one reason we decided to include Seurat in our roundup of important artists for children to know. Another good reason to introduce children to Seurat: the technique of pointillism is fascinating and a good way to introduce color theory. Seurat believed that it was best to keep color pure and mix the colors together on the canvas by placing small dots of different colors next to each other. For example, to create the color green, he would place tiny dots of blue paint right next to dots of yellow paint and this creates the illusion of green when the painting is viewed from far away. The art project we created, seen below, will give kids the opportunity to try out this technique themselves and maybe learn a little about color mixing at the same time.
To introduce pointillism, we started with the book Katie’s Sunday Afternoon by James Mayhew. In this book, several paintings by pointillist artists literally come alive as Katie climbs right into the pictures and experiences them first hand. Although this book is quite fantastic and sometimes a bit silly, it is also a good introduction to several important pointillist works, including A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte. It also reminds children that they can “interact” with paintings imaginatively.
Sunday with Seurat is yet another book in the wonderful Mini Master’s series of board books and is especially good for younger kids. This book pairs a simple, pleasing rhyme with seven of Seurat’s most well-known paintings.
For a book with lovely, large reproductions of Seurat’s work try Georges Seurat: Master of Pointillism by Hajo Duchting. Although the text is written at an adult level, the pictures are beautifully printed and it’s a good source for basic biographical information about Seurat.
The BBC documentary Seurat: Private Life of a Masterpiece is a fascinating exploration of this rather mysterious artist, although it is a bit long and dry for smaller children. Even if kids can’t sit through the whole video, they will probably enjoy the footage of an artist actually creating a pointillist painting (this is about 24 minutes into the video). There is also some great footage showing people looking at A Sunday Afternoon in a museum, which gives children an idea of just how huge this painting really is.
After introducing children to Seurat and his works through the books and video above, they may want to try creating a pointillist picture themselves:
Thick white paper or card stock
Large, multicolored stamp pad or several smaller stamp pads in primary colors
A handful of Q-tips
Scissors, glue stick and colored card stock for creating a frame (optional)
1. Draw a pencil drawing on the white paper or card stock. Fill in the drawing with color by pressing a q-tip into the desired color of stamp pad and then dotting the ink on the paper. Experiment with creating new colors by placing small dots of different colored ink right next to each other on the paper.
2. If you want to frame your creation: Cut out the pointillist picture you have drawn. Measure a piece of colored card stock that is about 1-inch bigger than your picture on all sides. Paste your drawing onto the colored card stock using a glue stick and leave to dry thoroughly.
Note: If your child is not yet old enough to draw pictures (or doesn’t enjoy drawing), you could do this same project using a page from a coloring book, or a coloring page printed from the internet. Check out our large selection of coloring pages at piikeastreet.com/free-coloring-pages. Made by Joel also has many beautiful, free printable coloring pages.
Printable Artist Fact Card
Print this fact card out and add to your collection of great artists and their work. Fold in half and laminate or cut and paste onto a 3×5 card.