Georges-Pierre Seurat Oil 1884-1886
I hope everyone is taking the day off today to celebrate the anniversary of the release of one of the greatest movies of all time (well, at least for everyone in my age bracket) Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in 1986. There’s so much to say about Ferris, but really the best thing I can say is just watch the movie. Again. And again. If you haven’t seen it in a while, I suspect a rewatch will do you some good. As I’ve been saying a lot lately, perspective.
Like so many people, one of my favorite scenes is the museum visit to the Art Institute of Chicago. I’m relatively sure every 30 and 40 something that has ever visited has imitated Ferris, Sloane, and Cameron mimicking the Rodin statue. And I, as so many others, made a point to kiss in front of the Chagall windows.
But while Sloane and Ferris share their kiss in front of the American Windows, Cameron is studying Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. For me, through the beginning of the movie Cameron is just whiney and annoying. But as Cameron stares at the painting the viewer starts to understand him more. He’s not just a killjoy full of teen angst, there are deeper, darker feelings at work inside him.
There is terror in his eyes. We get even more of a glimpse in the pool scene (another favorite). But I won’t spoil it in case you’re the last person on earth who hasn’t seen it.
John Hughes really explains the significance of this painting to Cameron well in his commentary for the 1999 release. There’s no need for me to try to explain his words. Just watch this little segment here: John Hughes Commentary. Also, the Smithsonian has an interesting commentary on this moment as well. Here is a link to that article: Smithsonian.
Although many people know Seurat as a Neo-Impressionist Pointillist, many don’t realize he’s also the father of chromoluminarism. Just like tiny colored dots make up the picture on a TV screen, Seurat and other Divisionists separated their colors and placed them next to each other. So basically, your eyes actually combine the colors optically to make them appear the desired color, not the painter. If you watch the clip in the link mentioned above you can see what I mean, as there is an extreme close up of the painting.
Probably because I’ve seen the movie so many times, I naturally look directly to the mother and child in the center. But actually, there are a lot of really interesting things in this painting. Did you notice the monkey on a leash? How about the guy that appears to be playing a trombone backwards? I’ve tried to find some explanation for that guy, but no luck. It’s just a fun painting to explore.
In the words of the infamous Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”