Tag Archives: Art Institute of Chicago

Van Gogh’s Bedrooms

VanGoghBedroom
The Art Institute representation of Bedroom in Arles

Vincent Van Gogh only inhabited this earth for 37 years, and in that time, he lived in 37 different places. That could be why,  when he got to Arles and finally signed a lease on a little house of his own, the theme of home emerged so gloriously in his work. Of course, he had represented places where he’d lived before then. But after arranging his house in Arles, he painted his bedroom not once, but three different times. You may think you’ve seen his famous bedroom painting if you’ve been to Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. Another person might claim he saw it in the Musée D’Orsay in Paris, while a third would insist she’s seen it at the Art Institute of Chicago.

They would all be right. However, right now all three versions are being exhibited—side by side—at the Art Institute through May 10, 2016. This is the first time all three have been exhibited together in North America. This show has been ten years in the making

Van Gogh tried many lines of work, only realizing he was an artist the last 10 years of his life. In that 10 year span, he painted 900 canvases.

There’s so much to love about this exhibit. Many pieces by Van Gogh, Milliet, and others put the piece in context. There’s a re-creation of his bedroom that you can walk up to, though not into.

NightCafe
The Night Café by Vincent Van Gogh

The biggest surprise for me was in the last room, just before you get to the gift shop. Plan to spend a little time in the Night Café, which is set up to suggest a café in Arles where Van Gogh sometimes hung out. It doesn’t function at all like an actual café, but it does play a wonderful video loop which shows the many, many ways Van Gogh was celebrated in other media, especially film, television, by other artists, and in comics. And yes, the Doctor Who episode (the one that always makes me weep like a tiny little girl) was represented.

 

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Friday afternoon hooky

I should be writing. Okay, this is writing. What I meant was, last Friday I should have been writing, Instead I went with Cookie and Cookie Junior to the Art Institute. We especially wanted to hear the gallery talk on Cassatt, Sargent, and Whistler, but we stayed afterwards to appreciate a few other things.

I didn’t take a lot of pictures because 1-all I had was my phone, and 2- the art is usually there, and better in person than any snapshot I could take of it.

That said, a few things either caught my eye, or were going to be gone soon. Here’s a small sampling:

Our gallery talk lecturer showed us this picture by John Singer Sargent.

VeniceGlass
John Singer Sargent – Venetian Glass Workers

It made me think of Mary Robinette Kowal’s novel, Valour and Vanity, a novel which is set in Regency-era Italy and is the kind of novel you might end up with if Jane Austen wrote Ocean’s Eleven. There are Venetian glass workers in it.

As long as we were thinking about Mary Robinette Kowal, who is a puppeteer as well as a writer, we decided to scoot into the Puppets exhibition. It was slated to close two days after our visit, so if we missed it on this trip, we weren’t going to see it. I say “we” but we couldn’t talk Cookie Junior into puppets, as she thinks they are creepy. She looked at 20th century art while we checked out the puppets.

Some historical puppets hung out inside a display case. You weren’t allowed to play with those.

PuppetDisplay
Historical puppets from distant lands
Puppets1
Puppet closeup

Good thing Cookie Junior wasn’t with us to see the next one; creepy on so many levels! I don’t watch horror movies, but I want to know what kind of story someone could come up with about her.

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Creepy puppet

The part that was most fun was the shadow puppet theatre. There were shapes on sticks that you could move behind a scrim, but that’s not all!

ShadowPuppet
Shadow puppet theatre

They also provided instructions for making animal shapes using nothing but your hands. I’ve done the wolf one before, but that was the only one I knew how to do. We learned how to make dogs, ducks, horses and rabbits.

EileenBirdPuppet
Cookie makes a bird!

We also visited the Asian collection. I found this incense burner shaped like an insect cage:

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Incense burner from the Asian collection

Possibly the most interesting find of the day was the one Cookie described as “something that belongs in a Terry Pratchett novel.” We must have spent 15 minutes admiring it.

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Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs lock

Here’s what the Art Institute says about the item that so captivated us:

Frank L. Koralewsky served as a traditional ironworker’s apprentice in his native north-German town of Stralsund. After obtaining journeyman status, he worked in various German shops before immigrating to Boston in the mid- 1890s. By 1906 he was a member of the Boston Society of Arts and Crafts, specializing in locksmithing and hardware. This extremely intricate lock, which took seven years to complete, exemplifies the early-20th-century taste for sentimental medievalism and represents the pinnacle of the metalworking tradition at the turn of the 20th century. Exhibited at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, where it won a gold medal, the lock illustrates Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s fairy tale “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”

We’ve been going to the Art Institute for how many years, and we just now discovered this? Inconceivable!

I want one.

By the way, there are only six dwarfs on the lock. Bonus points to the person who can either state definitively what happened to the seventh, or come up with a convincing story…

Run, don’t walk!

Illuminations
Illuminations at Morton Arboretum

In early December, Bro was in town for his second annual holiday visit. Just like last year, we visited multiple Chicago tourist venues.

There were a couple I especially want to mention ASAP, because if you don’t get to them by January 4, you will have missed your chance.

1968
at the Chicago History Museum

1968_LRweb
Recreation of a 1968 living room*

I wanted to see the limited-run 1968 exhibit ever since I found out it was happening. We finally made it there in early December. Wasn’t sure what to expect. There would definitely be something about the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and probably about the protests that marked the year in general.

1968_WelcomeDemocrats
DNC welcome sign*

I figured I’d like it. I liked it about three times more than I expected to—maybe ten times more. If you lived through the era, or even if you have an interest in it, you will not be disappointed. It was a total immersion in the politics, music, decor, pop culture—everything you could think of that would saturate you in the era. The exhibit went month by month through a turbulent year and brought it to life via photos, a military helicopter, films, broadcasts, recordings, clothing, furniture, housewares, and other objects.

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1968 fashion*

Loved, loved, loved it.  I desperately want to get back before it’s over. If you have even a mild interest, and can get there by January 4, do it. DO IT!

David Bowie Is
at the Museum of Contemporary Art

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Album cover shoot for Aladdin Sane, 1973
Design: Brian Duffy and Celia Philo; make up: Pierre La Roche
Photo: Brian Duffy
Photo: Duffy © Duffy Archive and the David Bowie Archive

This special exhibition, a retrospective of David Bowie’s amazing career runs from September 23, 2014–January 4, 2015. I was not a huge fan of Davie Bowie before this exhibit, but I just may be now. I was amazed at the range of his talent. What struck me most about him as an artist is the combination of his fearlessness and his hard work.

The show includes 60 costumes, storyboards, handwritten set lists and lyrics, and some of Bowie’s own sketches, musical scores, and diary entries. Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art is the only planned U.S. venue for the exhibition, which was organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

More Holiday Fun

We enjoyed several other time-sensitive events, like the Holiday Express at Chicago Botanic Garden and Illuminations at the Morton Arboretum and the Neapolitan Creche and Holiday-decorated Thorne Rooms at the Art Institute. However, those are annual holiday traditions, so they’ll be around next year if you miss them this year.

If you have only limited time, get to David Bowie Is or 1968 first.

Next post will be about one of the best Chicago tourist days in recorded history. Bro gave it a grade of 98%.

*Photos by Bro

Magritte With Some Fellows

bowler-hat
Magritte liked to wear-and play around with-bowler hats

Cookie brought Cookie Junior, Sis, and me to a swell do at the Art Institute the other week. Cookie is a Fellow there, and as such, she gets to learn and do more things than a regular member like me. Luckily she can invite several commoners along to special events, which is how I got in.

We learned more about the Belgian surrealist Magritte than I already knew, but that isn’t saying much. Everything I knew about him prior to July 1, 2014 I learned from watching the 1999 remake of The Thomas Crown Affair.

After learning a few things, and hearing stories I’m not supposed to repeat, we went to the reception. They do lovely receptions for Art Institute Fellows and their guests, but this one was something special. In keeping with the surrealist themes, many things were not what they appeared to be.

The most obvious place to acquire a napkin was from the young woman who wore thousands of them as a cocktail dress. As guests entered the reception and were drawn irresistibly to her bright turquoise form, she invited them—actually it seemed more like a  dare—to remove a napkin from her dress. Each paper square came off, with a bit of tugging, mostly to reveal more napkins underneath. Her knee-length skirt stood out like an inverted bowl, easily five feet in diameter at the bottom. Much hardware went into the design of her ensemble, but it would take a determined investigator some time to discover exactly how her dress managed to keep her decently covered while performing its useful service. We wanted to get to the exhibit itself, so we let that remain a mystery.

Red-and-white-striped cartons labeled “popcorn” were found to actually be holders for broccoli and cauliflower florets. Pale turquoise acrylic martini glasses contained a clear, cold liquid, but they were in such high demand that it was impossible to acquire any of this particular refreshment. Likely they held water, thus providing another means of astonishing the evening’s attendees. Small, pale egg-shaped forms floating in a creamy orange sea turned out to be white chocolate truffles. Adorning each round table was a silhouette of René Magritte in his iconic bowler hat, made of foam core, painted black, and stuck into a square pewter-colored metal vase that was filled with glitter-covered Styrofoam. At the the end of the evening, guests could be seen making off with these mementos. I might actually know someone who helped herself to one, but if so, I’m not squealing.

In the exhibit itself, trains roared out of fireplaces, a man peered into a mirror at a reflection of the back of his own head, a nude woman was painted into existence by a man who clearly longed for her, and an easel set up before a window might have shown what was outside the window, but might just as easily have obscured the actual view.

Magritte and the Mystery of the Ordinary. There’s a story there. I’ve got to go back and find out what it is.