No trip to Chicago would be complete–or even conceivable–without a visit to the incredible Art Institute of Chicago. Given that we only had a morning and half an afternoon, we had to limit ourselves to a special exhibition on Roy Lichtenstein (see our accompanying blog), a quick, but very nice lunch at the museum’s Terzo Piano restaurant (see accompanying blog) and all too brief swoops through a few of our favorite galleries. Among our favorite galleries, and our favorite works of art in them, are:
The museum is, of course, particularly known for its unparalleled (at least outside of Paris’s Musee d’Orsay) Impressionist collection, with especially good representation of artists including Monet, Renoir, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin and Toulouse-Latrec. Although it is hard to know where to even start in selecting favorite paintings in this world-class gallery, a few of ours include these by Monet, Renoir and Cezanne.
But no profile of this gallery would be complete without two particularly iconic works:
Georges Seurat’s “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte;” and the honorary Impressionist Gustave Caillebotte’s “Paris Street: Rainy Day.”
Late 19th and Early 20th Century American Art
Speaking of iconic works, no visit to the Art Institute would be complete with stops of two of the museum’s other classic paintings:
- Grant Wood’s “American Gothic;” and
- Edward Hopper’s “The Nighthawks.”
These galleries, however, contain much more than these classics. These include works by artists including John Singer Sargent, Mary Cassatt, James Whistler and William Merritt Chase. These now also have a section devoted to Georgia O’Keefe, John Marsden, Arthur Dove and other artists in the so-called “Alfred Stieglitz Circle.”
Now that the museum’s beautifully designed Modern Wing has dramatically expanded the exhibit space dedicated to contemporary art, it can also show off its representative selection of European and American modernists. Its European collection is highlighted by it’s well-represented Cubist collection–especially works by Picasso and Braque:
There are also some good representations of the work of a number of other leading European modernists, including Chagall, Matisse, Miro, Dali, Magritte and Giacometti.
The Art Institute’s collection of contemporary American artists is somewhat more limited, but still contains some very impressive works. While Warhol, in particular, is well represented, the gallery also provides some good examples of work by artists including de Kooning, Rothko, Pollock, Calder, Twombly and Jasper Johns.
The wing also has a smaller gallery devoted to modern architecture and design (especially furniture and lighting), with a particular focus on projects that were intended for or built in Chicago, and to the work of architects and designers who worked in Chicago.
Other “Must” Stops
Although time was running short, none of our visits to the Art Institute would be complete without at least quick stops at the museum’s Oriental galleries (especially Chinese and Japanese); and
A walk down into the basement to see the amazingly detailed miniatures of the Thorne Rooms, period-correct representations of centuries of interior design across Europe and America, with brief nods to Japan and China.
And speaking of special stops, there are two other absolute “musts” for any trip to the Art Institute: The majestic Chagall windows, now displayed in a location that provides the light required to show off their brilliant colors; and the reconstructed trading room of the Chicago Stock Exchange, which Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan designed in 1893.