The Art Institute of Chicago is a world-class art museum and a jewel within Chicago, Illinois. It hosts some of the finest art collections in the world on display for its thousands of yearly guests. No matter what taste you have in art, or whether you have no taste in art at all, it has something for everyone. In the heart of Chicago's downtown area, right next to Millennium Park, The Art institute of Chicago was founded as the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts in 1879. However, in 1893 when it was set to host the World's Columbian Exposition, a larger structure was needed so they built the a museum structure on the current location of Michigan and Addams. Though the museum started off humbly showing off plaster casts, it has now grown to host a collection of 4,500 paintings from over 50 countries.
There is enough to see and several interactive activities to do that that tackling the Art Institute of Chicago is no feat you can rightly do in just a few hours. However, if you do find yourself on a tight schedule, here are a few must-see exhibits.
The great views of this art museum start before you even get inside. The two bronze lions at the opening were made especially for the grand opening of the museum in 1893. It may seem peculiar not to make them identical, but there is a reason. The south lion stands proud with an attitude of defiance, while the north lion is on the prowl. Over time, these lions have turned an odd sort of green, much like the Statue of Liberty, leaving one only to wonder how marvelous it must have been to see them in full polished bronze.
A Sunday on La Grand Jatte by Georges Seurat
A Sunday on La Grand Jatte is not the most famous painting within the Art Institute, but it is by the far the most well known. While looking unremarkable at first, it is done in the pointillism style. A Sunday on La Grand Jatte is a complete picture made up of possibly millions of little painted dots pain-staking made by the artist that took over two years to complete. And why wouldn't it? The painting measures a massive 7 by 10 foot, towering over a person. Be sure to get as close as the museum will allow so you can marvel at all those tiny dots and appreciate that someone did that by hand.
The Bedroom by Vincent van Gogh
Van Gogh made three versions of this composition which serves as the only record for his Yellow House, in which he lived in while in Arles in the South of France. The Bedroom embodies Van Gogh dream of a perfect studio in the south, within a community of likeminded artists working to create art for the future. The original version was made to decorate Van Gogh's house when expecting a visit from Paul Gauguin.
While most of the time, this painting can be found in the Medieval to Modern European Painting and Sculpture gallery, it is an original Van Gogh, so on occasion it travels to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Don't be sad if it wasn't there for your visit, it is the property of the Art Institute officially and always comes back home within a few months. Be sure see Van Gogh's famous self portrait as well, but like The Bedroom, it on occasion travels.
America Windows by Marc Chagall
Aside from A Sunday on La Grand Jatte, American Windows is the Art institute's most prized exhibit out of all their vast collections. Even before the work was made famous by being shown in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, it held a beloved place in the heart of Chicagoans.
After earning acclaim in the city in no small part due to the Institute's encouragement, Chagall offered to create a set of stained glass windows for the museum. Over time as plans were laid out, Chagall decided that these windows would also be used to commemorate America's upcoming Bicentennial. The resulting six panel work celebrates our country of cultural and religious freedom by displaying the arts of music, painting, literature, and dance. Due to his love for Chicago, Chagall dedicated it to the mayor at the time, Richard J. Daley who gave abundantly to the arts.
American Gothic by Grant Wood
American Gothic has not only become a popular painting within the Midwestern United States, but around the world. While it is interpreted in a great number of different ways, as art often is, however it is popularly thought of as a satirical comment on the Midwestern character. Grant Wood admitted that the painting actually had a positive message about middle America. Displaying them as solid and well built, with all their strengths and weaknesses, it showed them as the survivors.
Artist Grant Wood was inspired by this iconic American piece of art while visiting a small town in his native state of Iowa. He spotted a small farmhouse, much like the one displayed in the painting with a singular window, which is created in the Carpenter's Gothic style. Using his sister and his dentist for model Midwestern faces, American Gothic was born.
Interactive Exhibits for Kids
Kids, especially young kids, at art museums are a gamble. Some kids don't have the capacity to appreciate art until they get older, and some kids want to touch everything they see. At an art museum it is usually a bad mixture for either type of kid. However, the Art Institute of Chicago recognizes this and caters to them. They have a variety of programs for kids as well as teens. The best part is, these programs don't require paying admission to the museum if you walk straight to them.
The children's exhibits include a Touch Galley, originally designed for the visually impaired, it is filled with sculptures that children can run around a touch to their hearts content. Aside from that there is a mini masters program for children age 3 to 5 and a similar program for teens 10 to 18 in which they practice their artistic skills by trying to recreate classic paintings by the masters. They also offer a family program for adults who want to join in.