Georges Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte rarely moves. As one of the masterpieces in the collection, it’s almost always in the galleries for your viewing enjoyment. It’s also one of the very few works in the Art Institute’s collection that absolutely does not travel.
In fact, the last time it left the museum was over 50 years ago. The occasion was a Seurat retrospective that began at the Art Institute and traveled to the Museum of Modern Art in March 1958. The painting was famously insured for one million dollars and accompanied by a conservator and an armed guard during its trip. The exhibition was a hit in New York and all was fine until Tuesday, April 15. On that day, workmen were busy installing a new air-conditioning system and when they left for lunch, combustible painting materials close by caught fire. The blaze quickly spread and although the consequences were severe—one electrician was killed, dozens of firefighters were injured, and a Monet water lily was destroyed—the fire narrowly avoided La Grande Jatte, which was quickly ushered to another building. After that close call, trustees made the decision that the painting would never again leave Chicago.
So here it stays. But it will be included in our upcoming Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity, so just this morning, a multitude of art handlers, conservators, and the exhibition’s collection manager had the complicated task of moving this 10-foot painting from our Impressionist galleries to Regenstein Hall, where the exhibition will open to members on June 23 and to the public on June 26. We’re pleased that the move was successful and here are some pictures of the journey. . .
Image Credit: Georges Seurat. A Sunday on La Grande Jatte–1884, 1884-86. Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection
POSTED BY Katie R., ON June 05, 2013, Comments Off
Georges Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte is one of the most beloved paintings at the Art Institute. Visitors marvel at its scale (it’s over 10 feet wide!), the pointillist technique Seurat used to create it (little dots make up the whole painting!), and just the sheer fact that they’re seeing it in person (it doesn’t just exist in reproductions?!).
But later this month, we’ll be asking you to think about this seemingly familiar painting in a different way. It will be moving from its home in the Impressionist galleries to the special exhibition Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity where we’ll encourage you to learn the answer to the question: why is everyone dressed just so? What are we able to tell about these characters from their attire? And how would they have appeared to people in 1884? Were they in style? Passé?
Spoiler alert: the woman on the right was quite en vogue. Scientific analysis has shown us that Seurat increased the size of her bustle several times during the two years he worked on this painting keeping her very on trend. She also wears a bodice with a tiny waist, kid gloves pulled up to the edge of her sleeves, and a parasol with a ribbon, all of which would have been considered very chic.
Image Credit: Georges Seurat. A Sunday on La Grande Jatte — 1884, 1884-1886. Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection.
And, frankly, we thought. . . why does everyone else get to have all the fun? So we decided to pick some of our favorite artworks, “act” them out, and see if our loyal readers could guess which pieces from the Art Institute’s permanent collection we’re mimicking. All of the pieces we chose are currently on view and can be found in the museum’s online collection. Also, (hint #1!) this is the American edition.
And don’t worry, we won’t be quitting our day jobs any time soon. Leave your guesses in the comments!
Courtesy of NBC.
Georges-Pierre Seurat. A Sunday Afternoon on la Grande Jatte—1884, 1884–1886. Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection.
POSTED BY Katie R., ON December 02, 2010, Comments Off
Happy Birthday Georges Seurat, creator of Art Institute masterpiece and fan-favorite A Sunday on La Grande Jatte — 1884!
This painting is one of the highlights of the museum’s collection and one of the only works that we never loan out to other institutions. So in other words, if you can’t make it to Chicago, you’re out of luck. But since we know that some people just can’t get enough of this pointillist master, here are some ways to add a little more Seurat to your life:
2. Find the app for that. Download our French Impressionism app to learn more about the artist (and his illustrious contemporaries), watch videos, and look at images.
3. Hunt for treasure. Well, not actual treasure, but if you are in Chicago, this Sunday is our 29th Annual Treasure Hunt and Tea Party. Bring the kiddos to learn about art (La Grande Jatte is one of the stops along the hunt), hang out with Artie the Lion, and drink some delicious tea. Who knows? You might even learn something.
I took my first art history class as a sophomore in high school, right around that sacred time when teenagers begin forging what scientists and psychologists once courageously deemed “an identity.” Today, of course, most of those scientists and psychologists work in television advertising and utilize a rotation of terms for that awkward transition into adulthood. This year, I believe, they’re calling it Glee.
Whatever the name, my unique identity at the time was Eddie Vedder. And I was very cool and my pants had lots of pockets. I was also one of two male sophomores in an art history class full of hot female seniors. This led me to three very important life lessons: (1) where there is art, there are beautiful women; (2) those beautiful women usually have artist boyfriends; (3) it is best to focus on the art and not on the women, as some artists sculpt quite well with their fists.
As it turned out, the history of art provided more than enough drama and intrigue—or should I say angst and rebellion?—to keep my teenage attention. I loved the stories, the lives and the histories entangled and embodied by these creations the artists left behind. Studying the history of art was like studying the history of humanity—the cultures, religions, politics, technologies, revolutions, evolutions—only the entry point, for someone without access to a major art museum, was essentially based on faith. As a sixteen-year-old kid squinting at a Rembrandt reproduction the size of a business card, I remember thinking, “What’s this look like for real?”
Millions of years later, in a post-post-post-grunge world, here I am, on my last day as a staff member at the Art Institute of Chicago, where I routinely walk past many of the unreal artworks reprinted in that tattered old Gardner book from high school. I still find the optical magic of Seurat’s dots fascinating or the slick sheen of Brancusi’s Golden Bird both alien and captivating, yet what I’ll miss most aren’t the works I recognized on my first museum tour or the few anecdotes I remember from class. Instead, I’ll think back on my secret favorite works, the ones I discovered on my own or researched as an employee, like the charming and functional 14th-century Lion Aquamanile in Gallery 203A (profiled in this month’s Member Magazine, for all you members out there) or Frans Hals’ chuckle-inducing Rommelpot Player (the drummer from June’s Making the Band self-guide) in Gallery 208. During my first stroll through the Modern Wing, I probably stared at Vincent and Tony for ten minutes, a painting where the size of the canvas seems to directly match the potency of the emotion.
My point is—and surely I’m preaching to the choir here—the thing every art history book leaves out of its grand survey of human creativity (besides everything after, say, 1965) is an explanation for that bond that occurs, that unique connection between people and certain works of art, how some painting made in a stuffy, un-air-conditioned room centuries ago can still spur the imagination. Sometimes we have clear reasons (“See how the smoke turns into clouds right there? Isn’t that cool?!”), and sometimes we don’t even have words. In the museum’s recent Matisse exhibition, I absolutely loved his portrait of a balding man with glasses and a mustache. Why? I have no idea. Maybe I was looking into the future.
Anyway, I’ll miss the museum, my wonderful colleagues, and the daily opportunities to discover new secret favorites. Oh, and by the way—check out one of our Rembrandts when you get a chance. They’re way cooler than any book reproductions.
Or Pearl Jam.
–Zach G., (now former) media assistant. [Ed. note: we'll miss you Zach! Godspeed!]
Image: José Guadalupe Posada (Mexican, 1851-1913). Goodbye, Goodbye, n.d. Relief print on paper. William McCallin McKee Memorial Collection.