Thursday, November 8, 2012

Let's Get Artsy-Fartsy

The purpose of Art is washing the dust
of daily life off of our souls.
Pablo Picasso

Continuing on with my fun day downtown......

We at lunch at "Elephant and Castle", a cool restaurant with good food, great drinks and yummy desserts. This was the "smaller" version of a dessert! It consisted of 6 brownies sprinkled with powdered sugar, topped with a scoop of delicious vanilla ice cream and a pouf of whip cream. TO.DIE.FOR.

We hopped into a cab and our worst fear was realized. 

It smelled.

Or should I say, the CAB DRIVER smelled. His b.o. was very pungent, and he tried to cover it up with overpowering cologne.

It did not work.

So we were dealing with two strong, offensive smells. Throw in the heat from the car and you get instant upset stomach and headache. I was stuck in the middle; Therese rolled down the window all the way, and stuck her head out like a dog who's ears flap in the wind, gasping for breath . Luckily the ride was a short one and we piled out of the cab like nobody's business. 

It was recommended that we go into the back entrance of the Art Institute so it wouldn't be as crowded, although I wasn't expecting large crowds in the middle of the day. We breezed right in, paid for our tickets, and this big guy welcomed us. And I mean he was REALLY big, like maybe 15 feet tall?

Both Kim and I had been to the museum before, it was the first time for Therese. We only had a couple of hours to spend there. According to the brochure that we received with our tickets, there were recommendations listed if one only had an hour to spend at the museum. We thought that was a good plan to follow. There were 12 in all, I took pictures of nine of them. (Of the 3 not shown? One was not worth it, another wasn't available for viewing, and we totally missed the third one.)

1. First stop - American Gothic by Grant Wood. For trivia on this painting, visit an old post of mine here.

2. Marc Chagall's American Windows. This video shows the step-by-step of how the windows were made. It's quite interesting, although a little long at over 9 minutes.

This photo is from the Art Institute's web site and shows all three windows. It was either a cloudy day, or taken towards the evening hours.

I couldn't get all three windows in my photo. Obviously, it was a sunny day.

A close-up

3.  Seated Buddha (made of granite - 63 inches high)

4. El Greco's The Assumption of the Virgin. 157.9" H x 90.2" W
The artist - Domenikos Theotokopoulos, was called "El Greco". This was his first commissioned painting. He divided the painting into two halves - earthly (bottom) and heaven (top). The apostles are on the bottom and look at each other in astonishment as the Virgin Mary is ascended into heaven on a crescent moon (which symbolizes her purity). The angels in the top half are rejoicing her arrival.

5. A Sunday on La Grande Jatte 1884 by Georges Seurat. 81.7H x 121.3W This is a good example of "pointillism", a technique in painting in which "small distinct dots of pure color are applied in patterns to form an image." Developed by Georges Seurat and Paul Signac in 1886, branching off from "impressionism". (Wikipedia)

In 1889 the artist re-stretched the canvas to add a painted border of red, orange and blue dots that provides a visual transition between the interior of the painting and the white frame. (Art Institute of Chicago)

Here is a photo of the painting without the white frame, so you can get a better look at the border (courtesy of the internet). 

If it's still hard to make out, try looking here.

6. The Bedroom by Vincent Van Gogh. This is a painting depicting Van Gogh's bedroom in the Yellow House in Arles in the South of France. The artist called his home "Studio of the South". It was located in an area with like-minded artists. The first version of this painting was used to decorate his house for his visitor, the artist Paul Gauguin, who planned to spend some time and paint. But that arrangement didn't go well; Van Gogh hacked off his ear, and Gauguin fled back to Paris. This rendition of "The Bedroom" was painted when Van Gogh was in an asylum.

7.Pablo Picasso's The Old Guitarist. Painted during his "blue" period (1900-1904) where he mainly used blue or blue green with possibly a splash of another color. Could you imagine having a box of 64 crayons and only using once color? Sheesh! A couple of interesting facts about this painting - x-rays of the painting (who knew you could do this?) shows that there were two earlier paintings under this! Talk about recycling! Not only that, it is believed that the wooden supports for the painting was once a large breadboard. X-rays revealed deep cuts in the wood. Unbelievable!

8. We are going to step away from paintings and go to a sculpture by Salvatore Dali. He was also a surrealist painter. This sculpture is called Venus de Milo with Drawers. Odd? Yes. Art comes in many different forms.This is painted plaster with metal pulls and mink pom-poms. Supposedly Dali was influenced by Sigmund Freud, and was quoted as saying, "The only difference between immortal Greece and contemporary times is Sigmund Freud, who discovered that the human body, purely platonic in the Greek epoch, is nowadays full of secret drawers that only psychoanalysis is capable to open." (Art Institute of Chicago)

Capice? or should I say καταλαβαίνω? (Greek for "understand")

9. Last on our recommended list is this unusual mask. "Originating in the 16th century and reaching its peak of influence in the 19th century, the Kuba kingdom united numerous ethnic groups in south-central Democratic Republic of Congo. Mukenga masks such as this one are worn at funerals of influential, titled men in the northern part of the kingdom. The mask’s form and materials combine symbols associated with status and leadership. Constructed over a wooden frame, its surface is comprised of raffia cloth upon which glass beads, cowrie shells, raffia fibers, and animal fur are attached. The carefully arranged cowrie shells, once prized as currency, signal wealth and status. The beardlike ruff of the large and dangerous colobus monkey refers to powers of the forest. A prominent trunk projecting upward and over the front of the mask represents the elephant, the supreme symbol of leadership." Art Institute of Chicago

That's all I know is, this would have made a helluva Halloween costume!

I hope I didn't bore you with this art lesson. I found it fascinating once I dug into the history behind each piece. The next post continues with more art pieces, some famous, some not-so-famous.


SquirrelQueen said...

It is fascinating that they have found two other painting under Picasso's work. The Van Gogh and Picasso are my favorites but I like all of these works. Thanks for the tour Pat, looking forward to more.

Brian Miller said...

i totally need me a hat like that....ha....pretty cool...i love hitting the art museums, sounds like fun times, even if you only had an hour....

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

Those are some treasures. I think you cherry picked the best.

Dianne said...

you had a wonderful afternoon there!
beautiful works of art, you got great shots of them

Adam said...

Love the artwork

Kathy's Klothesline said...

The mask. Wow! Lots of work in that, but all I can think is what the trunk represents ....... age old phallic symbol?

Jeannine Breton said...

I love museums [art, etc., etc.]I did not find it boring at all. One can read so much into the paintings and the artists. Thanks for including me on in your day...

Eva Gallant said...

Well, I feel I'm all cultured up now! Thanks for the tour!

NixBlog said...

Fantastic virtual visit, Pat. Brings back memories of my visit there!

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Wow -- that was fun. It really helps to have some history and anecdotes so you kind of know what you're looking at.

And the Institute is sure a good example of the advantages of living near a real City! Thanks for sharing (with this country bumpkin ;>))

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

What a fascinating tour!
I cannot bear bad smells, so I'd have had my head hanging out the cab window.

Halcyon said...

I guess you are in Chicago? I haven't been inside this museum in ages, but I love it! You caught most of the "famous" works that are on display there... can't wait to see more. :)

PS: We also have an Elephant and Castle here. I wonder if it's a chain?