Sunday, May 5, 2024

Some Of My Favorites At The AIC

I haven’t been back to the AIC aka The Art Institute of Chicago since I exhibited at an art fair on Chicago’s Navy pier many years ago. In the museum, I started to speak with a stranger who turned out to be a professor of music from Minnesota. He said, “It is not like the Metropolitan Museum but it is nice to have it here”. Well, there are blockbusters in the collection that certainly rival and surpass works at the Met.

Not sure why but as we came up the grand staircase on the wall was a Frank Lloyd Wright stained glass triptych (1912) from the Conley Playhouse in Riverside Illinois. I found it arresting, maybe because it was somewhat incongruous but still worked as abstract art in the classically built 1879 AIC.

Of course, the Museum is famous for its major Impressionist Collection and they have the great Caillebotte of the “Paris Street on a Rainy Day” (1877) and “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte” by George Seurat (1884).

Edouard Manet’s “Boy with Pitcher”, painted between 1862 and 1872 makes me thirsty. If you look closely you can see the water spilling out of the pitcher and into the boy's mouth. He has the technique down pat! In fact, x-rays showed that it had been cut from a larger canvas that Manet was not happy with. I am kind of glad he did!

A painting I have always loved ever since I saw the illustration in a primer on art history and needless to say the original is 10 times more exciting is Giovanni di Paolo’s Saint John the Baptist Entering the Wilderness (1455-1460). It has such an ethereal feeling as if you were floating with him.

In another panel from the series, “The Head of Saint John the Baptist Brought before Herod”. one might say of John the Baptist that god allowed him to be vanquished. Do note that the head (middle-right) is in a domed dish and the dome is lifted off and served up to Herod. (bottom center).

I love dragons and there are two in the collection that are particularly magical. The first being a striking interpretation of Saint George and the Dragon, 1434/35, is by the Spanish artist Bernal Martorelli. The young handsome Saint George on his white steed slaying the fanciful dragon who is ready to swallow his destined sword. Thereby saving the richly clothed Princess standing near by from being sacrificed to the dragon.

A similar subject but not nearly as lively is a wood sculpture of “St. Michael and the Devil” carved between 1475 and 1500 by an unknown Spanish artist. The Archangel Michael seems to be dancing on Satan’s back, dagger in hand ready to strike.

Just one more and quite a different kind of sculpture, a bronze of Bireno and Olympia (1640/50) by Ferdinand Tacca. Olympia is being abandoned by her husband Bireno and swoons back onto her bed. The sensuousness of the subject is heightened by the brown-gold patina. (Image of Tacca)

We spent about 5 hours in the museum and these are just a few of the major works of art in the collection that I responded to.

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