Finishing the Hat – My Encounter With George Seurat

This weekend while on a trip to Chicago, I ventured into the Art Institute. Wandering through, finding my museum pace, drinking in all the incredible works, listening to their stories and backgrounds through my handheld “I’m a tourist” device, and fully entering the zone when suddenly Sunday in the Park by George Seurat appeared before me.

Sunday in the Park

Seurat’s magnificent piece was a groundbreaking moment in pointillism, but I and many others know it from another groundbreaking work: Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park with George.”

The musical, starring Bernadette Peters and Mandy Patinkin in the original cast, tells of the paintings creation – while simultaneously offering a discourse on the act of creation itself. Creativity and the pressure to “come up with something new” are major themes throughout.

Seeing the original work in the flesh, so to speak, was unexpectedly moving. The musical touched me deeply and I had the image of Sunday in the Park as my computer desktop for years. It serves as a reminder of the importance of finishing creative works. As a classic INFP, I have a lot of creative ideas but barely finish anything; or my perfectionism gets in the way and I produce but never publish.

Sondheim’s George Seurat feels his artistic vision is compromised by its presentation to the public  – if it simply stays in a state of incompletion is can remain his – away from critics prying eyes. By Finishing the Hat he thereby exposes himself to others opinions, but also to their praise.

Keeping your work to yourself is perfectly valid, but only if it’s for the right reasons. And it’s important to make a choice though the choice may be mistaken, the choosing was not,” as Bernadette’s “Dot” character (get it? Dot? Point? Pointillism? Genius) gently reminds him.

Sunday in the Park

The experience of finally meeting the real Seurat was profound – as the musical and reality collided to become one in my brain. What a moment!*

~ Keep Exploring Historians!

*(And for my really nerdy Sondheim friends, yes that is an Into the Woods reference).