Friday, September 14, 2012

Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s life-size rendering of Seurat's "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte" painting showcases the talents of noted digital photographic artist Michael Lande

Artwork and live vignettes featuring cast members will be presented at Art Institute of Chicago at 11 a.m. on September 16

When Chicago Shakespeare Theater put together its artistic game plan for its soon-to-open production of the Sondheim and Lapine musical "Sunday in the Park with George," CST’s creative agency, Leo Burnett, placed a call to Chicago-based digital photographic artist Michael Lande.

The mission was intriguing: to create a unique, life-sized rendering of Georges Seurat’s famous "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte-1884" painting. This is one of the Art Institute of Chicago’s most prized and beloved masterpieces.

But this rendering would have a few missing elements. Some of the subjects in the original painting would have to be removed. "In this lifelike version, I had to make it seem as if the cast members of the play had literally leapt from the canvas onto the stage," said Lande. "I had to artistically take people out of the painting and replace their images with what I imagined would have been in their place."

The amazing results of his meticulous work will be on display as Chicago Shakespeare Theater promotes the new production at an 11 a.m. Sunday, September 16 preview event at the Art Institute of Chicago. The event will feature a live performance of a song from the musical, presented by the cast members who will be in full costume. Art Institute visitors who mention Chicago Shakespeare Theater at the admission desk will receive $2 off their admission to the Art Institute on that day (September 16).

The CST rendering of "Grand Jatte" will then be on display at the Navy Pier Expo until just before the production opens, when it will move to Chicago Shakespeare Theater to become part of a lobby display. The play runs from September 26 through November 4 at Chicago Shakespeare’s Courtyard Theater on Navy Pier. After the final performance, the artwork will be auctioned off to benefit Chicago Shakespeare’s arts-in-education programs.

For Lande, conceiving and producing this work of art was an adventure that captured his imagination—and tested the enormous skill set he has developed over twenty years of working in the digital space. He was a natural choice for this project. He has built a stellar reputation for his longtime work with such major clients as Leo Burnett, P&G, McDonald’s, Coca Cola, Comcast, Nintendo and Wrigley’s, to name a few. He is a CLIO award winner and a go-to artist for many projects involving photography, retouching and special effects.

"After I started working on this project," said Lande, "I became immersed in the artistic vision of Seurat, who was a true innovator. It was Seurat’s work that inspired the term pointillism and it is Seurat who everyone thinks of when they hear that term." Lande went so far as to find some French classical music of Seurat’s period to play while he spent hours working on the digital painting. "At some point I began feeling as if I was channeling Seurat. It was extraordinary to feel so connected to an artist, but I had to have that connection in order to make my rendering of the painting exude his master’s touch and passion."

Lande started with a quarter-scale digital version of the original painting. He then enlarged it to life-size and digitally removed and replaced parts of the digital image to accomplish his mission. He experimented with a variety of digital techniques to achieve the Seurat look. "I wound up painting dot by dot, the same way Seurat did, but with a digital brush," he said. "After trying a variety of shortcuts and using many PhotoShop tools and filters, I determined that none would have produced the results that would meet Seurat’s standards, if he were alive to see them. So I re-grouped, analyzed his painting technique very closely and figured out how to do the same thing with digital tools."

The final rendering is printed on canvas and is 121.25 inches wide. Lande has achieved remarkable accuracy in duplicating the lighting, textures and color tones that are on the original Seurat. "If you compare the original with the Chicago Shakespeare Theater version, and then see the musical, you’ll see that the missing elements are the cast members brought to life," said Lande with a smile. "What fun!"

For more information about the September 16 preview and the September 26–November 4 production of Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s "Sunday in the Park with George," please visit the CST website at or call the theater box office at (312) 595-5600.


To contact digital photographic artist Michael Lande, please visit his website at He can be reached by telephone at (312) 404-1593 or by email at

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