On June 19, The Art Institute of Chicago is opening an exhibition that tells the story of one of the world’s most beloved – and enigmatic – paintings, Georges Seurat’s (1859–91) “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte-1884.”
On view through September 19, the exhibition “Seurat and the Making of ‘La Grande Jatte'” will reassess this singular masterpiece, examining its origins and creation, as well as its legacy to the Art Institute, to Chicago, and to the history of Modernism. The exhibition will not travel.
“A Sunday on La Grande Jatte-1884” (1884-86) is one of the most famous, visited and frequently reproduced paintings in the world. Seen by tens of millions of viewers since its arrival in 1926, the picture is an Art Institute icon and a destination in itself for visitors who travel here from around the globe. First exhibited in Paris in 1886, it was a visual manifesto that quickly became a landmark in the development of modern painting. Today, “La Grande Jatte” continues to fascinate scholars, museum visitors, artists and advertisers alike. With more than 130 paintings and works on paper from public and private collections worldwide, “Seurat and the Making of ‘La Grande Jatte'” will demonstrate how Georges Seurat set the stage for art beyond Impressionism.
The exhibition celebrates “La Grande Jatte” and its place within Seurat’s own artistic evolution; its impact as a watershed event for the Parisian vanguard when it was first exhibited at the eighth and final Impressionist Exhibition; and its resonance in the works of the artist’s closest colleagues. All of the Art Institute’s formidable scientific, curatorial and technical resources have been harnessed to provide fresh information and insights, prompting viewers to appreciate in exciting new ways both the final painting and the process that led to it.
Among the works on view in the exhibition are about 40 of Seurat’s paintings and drawings related to the picture, from rich yet delicate conté crayon studies to oil sketches on small wood panels, to nearly full-sized paintings. The exhibition will begin with some of Seurat’s early works from 1881-82, and then show the remarkable transformation of his colors and subject matter around 1883, when he started to explore the modern-life subjects, high-keyed colors and broken brushwork of Impressionism. Also featured are paintings by Claude Monet and Pierre August Renoir, painters whom Seurat greatly admired, and whose depictions of figures at the seaside, boating or promenading through fields would resonate in Seurat’s unabashed tribute to modern leisure. Works by Paul Signac, Camille Pissarro and Pissaro’s son Lucien are also featured.
A special feature of the exhibition is the groundbreaking research on “La Grande Jatte” conducted by the Art Institute’s conservation, imaging and curatorial staff, in collaboration with a distinguished Seurat scholar and an internationally known color scientist. Art-historical, scientific and technical resources have been brought together to examine and analyze the three stages through which Seurat reworked and reenvisioned the painting – from its 1884-85 genesis to the 1885 addition of the signature pointillist dots and dashes, to the circa 1888-89 addition of its painted border.
The exhibition requires dated, timed tickets. Public tickets go on sale May 16. The Art Institute of Chicago is at 111 South Michigan Avenue. For tickets, 312-930-4040.