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.