R.A.H. (againstathorn) wrote,

Art Institute of Chicago - Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity Exhibit

Saturday morning I went down to the Art Institute of Chicago to see a few of their current exhibits. Here’s a short summary of each:

When I arrived I noticed the line for admission into the museum stretched halfway down the block. It’s safe to assume that a majority of these folks were here for the Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity exhibit. Despite the length of the line, it moved quickly and I was walking the galleries within less than ten minutes. As it was still early in the morning it seemed like a good time visit the Regenstein Hall to see the main attraction before the afternoon crowds set in.

As someone who’s not overly fond of Impressionism, I’d have to say this was an excellent exhibit. There were many works on loan from the Musée d'Orsay as well as from various museum collections. Certain paintings were accompanied by a garment or other adornment which related to the piece. In all honesty, the fashion trends of late-19th century Parisians are of very limited interest to me, but I could appreciate the organization of information and the aesthetic qualities of the works on display. I have to mention that one gallery was entirely laid with a green shag carpet, meant to resemble grass, of course, obviously intended to compliment the theme of the paintings.

Perhaps representing the old guard of the Paris Salon, there were many mid-career paintings by James Tissot, whose works possess a realism and attention to detail which I’ve always admired. However, I’d never compared his portraiture to that of Monet’s, well-known for his ability to convey natural light on canvas. I’m not a huge fan of Monet’s haystacks or other landscape paintings, but his portraits—particularly those depicting people in an outdoor setting—demonstrate an interesting technique, often placing his subject in shadow while bright patches of sunlight flood over areas throughout the composition. Compared to more straight-forward lighting presented in Tissot’s works, these outdoor portraits by Monet have more of a candid, authentic feel which found myself appreciating. In fact, the more I think of these paintings, I’m certain that the Impressionists, whose work focused on the properties of light, must’ve undoubtedly taken some inspiration from the developing art form known as photography.

Other items of note: Three intimate home scenes by Alfred Stevens, a stunning portrait by Charles Carolus Duran which immediately brought to mind John Singer Sargent, and Henri Gervex’s salacious Rolla.

Below is a listing of my favorite works from this exhibition along with their stats:

Albert Bartholomé - In the Conservatory, 1881, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Alfred Stevens - Eva Gonzales at the Piano, 1879, Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, FL
Charles Carolus Duran - Lady with the Glove, 1869, Musée d'Orsay
Claude Monet - Luncheon on the Grass, 1865-1866, Musée d'Orsay
Claude Monet - Women in the Garden, 1866, Musée d'Orsay
Henri Gervex – Rolla, 1878, Musée d'Orsay
James Tissot - Ball on the Shipboard , 1874, Tate Collection
James Tissot - Le Balcon du Cercle de la rue Royale, 1868, Musée d'Orsay
James Tissot - The Shop Girl, 1883, Art Gallery of Ontario
Jean Béraud - A Ball, 1878, Musée d'Orsay
Jean Béraud - Church of Saint Philippe du Roule, 1877, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

From there I went to the Galleries 124–127 for see the companion exhibit, Undressed: The Fashion of Privacy. As one would expect, this exhibit was fairly loose in terms of subject matter, allowing for works depicting nude studies, death scenes, prostitution, breastfeeding, tightening corsets, ect. The nude studies room featured a case of beautiful graphite drawings by Edward Burne-Jones and the prostitution room had a number of lurid drypoints by Belgian painter Félicien Rops. A search of Rops’ work online will bring up all sorts of naughty stuff, if that sort of thing appeals to you. All in all, this particular exhibit left me a little underwhelmed.

Afterward I found myself downstairs and decided to check out The Universe Next Door, a retrospective on the work of photographer Abelardo Morell. I’d heard of Morell before, primarily in reference to slide projection experiments, but actively sought out his work. All I can say is that I was floored with this man’s creative approach to photography. He shoots a lot of large format, of course, everything from close-ups and large interiors, but he takes of all this a step further by toying around with convention, all the while demonstrating a technical mastery of his tools. Recommended.

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