Our recent visit to the Art Gallery has inspired this week’s blog and while technically it is not 20th Century based, it does have a link to this era so bare with me.
One of my all time favourite paintings is `A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte’. Painted by French Impressionist artist Georges Seurat, it was created over a two-year period between 1884-1886. Measuring almost 7ft tall and 10 feet wide, the painting currently hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago.
Having studied scientific findings on colour, Seurat developed a new style of painting that later became known as Pointillism or Divisionism. He found by painting tiny particles or dots, colour next to colour that, at a certain distance the eye would fuse the specks of paint optically- only 11 colours are used in the painting- no black colour was used. It features simple lines, vivid colours, and detailed accuracy of light and shadow.
The painting was shown at the 8th and final Impressionists exhibition. Renoir, Monet and Sisley withdrew their submissions because of the painting. Seurat would go on and paint six more major works before his sudden death at the age of 31. He never sold a painting in his lifetime.
100 years later, in New York city, a smart, moving and thought-provoking musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine premiered on Broadway. Called `Sunday in the Park with George’, the first Act was a fictionalised account of Seurat’s life during the two years of the paintings creation and the relationship with his mistress and model, Dot. As Sondheim put it, the plot of Sunday is simple: “Boy loves girl. Boy loves art. Boy loses girl. Boy gets both girl and art 100 years later.”
Act Two is set in 1984 and focuses on George and Dot’s great- grandson, also named George and also an artist. George is struggling to make sense of his place in the world and if the art he creates is of any importance. George decides to travel to France and visit La Grande Jatte, where he meets the ghost of his great-grandmother Dot, who mistakes him for her George. Dot asks George if he is working on anything new. The duet they sing,’Move On’ has become a philosophy for performers, artists and writers. The song has also become an important mantra in my life. When I am stuck and do not know where to go or what path to take, this song always provides the answer. As much as I believe in fate and destiny, at the end of the day, I am in charge of my life. Every path I have ever walked down has led me to this moment. This, right here,right now, is where I am supposed to be. All the challenges I have faced, the self-doubt, the questioning, the life choices, the decisions. I walk the path. Right or wrong- I make the choice. I learn from my mistakes and my wins. It helps me to grow. As Dot sings `The choice may have been mistaken, the choosing was not’. I would not have it any other way.
Move On music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.
Stop worrying where you’re going- move on.
If you can know where you’re going, you’ve gone.
Just keep moving on.
I chose, and my world was shaken- so what?
The choice may have been mistaken,
the choosing was not.
You have to move on.
Look at what you want, not at where you are,
Not at what you’ll be.
Look at all the things you’ve done for me:
Opened up my eyes,
Taught me how to see,
Notice every tree-
Understand the light-
Concentrate on now.
I want to move on.
I want to explore the light.
I want to know how to get through,
Through to something new-
Something of my own-
Stop worrying if your vision is new.
Let others make that decision -they usually do.
You keep moving on.
Look at what you’ve done,
Then at what you want,not at where you are.
What you’ll be.
Look at all the things you gave to me.
See what’s in my eyes,and the colour of my hair,
and the way it catches light.
And the care, and the feeling…
And the life, moving on…
Anything you do, let it come from you.
Then it will be new.
Give us more to see…
Here is a clip of the song from the original French production.