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Chicago's Top 10 : The Art Institute of Chicago

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Guarded by iconic lions, and up a flight of grand stone steps (a favorite local meeting place) is the Midwest’s largest, and one of the USA’s best art museums. Housed in a massive Beaux Arts edifice (currently being renovated and expanded), the Institute has some 260,000 works from around the globe, and is famous for its Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works and touring shows.

  • 111 S. Michigan Ave.

  • El Station: Adams (Green, Orange, Purple, & Yellow lines) Monroe (Blue & Red lines)

  • 312 443 3600

  • www.artic.edu

  • Open 10:30am–5pm Mon–Fri (to 8pm Thu); 10am–5pm Sat & Sun.

  • DA (at both entrances)


Museum Guide

The Art Institute is building an addition to the museum as well as undergoing extensive renovations, all of which will be complete in 2009. The locations of works and the accessibility of specific galleries are subject to change, so if there is a particular work you would like to see, please call ahead first to ensure it is on view.


Main museum entrance

The Garden Restaurant is a lovely lunch stop. Alternatively, cross over to Cosi (

116 S. Michigan Ave.
) for great sandwiches.

Join a free, hour-long introductory tour. Meet in gallery 100 (1 or 2pm daily)


Don’t miss the reconstruction of the 1893 Stock Exchange Trading Room.


In summer, catch live jazz in the Garden Restaurant (4:30–7:30pm Thu)



Top 10 Paintings
  1. A Sunday on La Grande Jatte–1884

    Massive and mesmerizing, this painting took Georges Seurat two years to complete. The scene is created from dots of color, based on his study of optical theory, later known as pointillism.

  2. Acrobats at the Cirque Fernando

    Children were often the subjects of Renoir’s sunny paintings: this luminous 1879 work shows a circus owner’s daughters taking a bow after their act.

  3. At the Moulin Rouge

    Unlike many of his fellow Impressionists who painted serene, often natural scenes, Toulouse-Lautrec was drawn to the exuberant night- and lowlife of Paris. This dramatic composition (1892) celebrates the famous Moulin Rouge cabaret.

  4. Stacks of Wheat series

    From 1890–91, Monet painted 30 views of the haystacks that stood outside his house at Giverny in France. This museum has six of them, which illustrate the basic Impressionist doctrine of capturing fleeting moments in nature.

  5. Paris Street; Rainy Day

    Considered to be Gustave Caillebotte’s masterpiece, this evocative 1877 view down a Parisian boulevard, with life-sized figures in the foreground, perfectly captures the gray and rainy scene.

  6. Nighthawks

    One of the best-known images in 20th-century American Art, this 1942 painting by Realist Edward Hopper has a melancholy quality. It cleverly depicts fluorescent lighting, at the time a recent introduction to US cities.

  7. The Child’s Bath

    The only American to exhibit in Paris with the Impressionists, Mary Cassatt is known for using then-unconventional techniques such as elevated vantage points. She often portrayed women and children as in this, her most famous painting (1892).

  8. The Old Guitarist

    A 22-year-old, struggling Picasso painted this tortured 1903 portrait during his Blue Period. This reflected his grief over a friend’s suicide and was a precursor to his own style of Cubism.

  9. The Herring Net

    Winslow Homer honed his realist skills as an illustrator for magazines and later for the Union during the Civil War. After moving to Maine, he created a series of images, including this one (1885), depicting man’s complex relationship with the sea.

  10. American Gothic

    Grant Wood borrowed from the detailed style of Flemish Renaissance art to create this much-parodied painting (1930). Though perceived by many as satirical, the painting celebrates rural American values.

Collections

Floorplan
  1. European Paintings

    Arranged chronologically, and spanning the Middle Age through 1950, this prodigious collection includes a significant array of Renaissance and Baroque art. However, its main draw is a body of nearly 400 Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings. Instrumental in its creation was Bertha Honoré Palmer who acquired over 40 Impressionist works (largely ignored in France at the time) for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.

    Vincent Van Gogh, Self-portrait (1886–7), European Paintings
  2. American Arts

    This impressive holding contains some 5,500 paintings and sculptures dating from the colonial period to 1950. In addition, paintings and works on paper are on loan from the Terra collection and there is a range of decorative arts, including furniture, glass, and ceramics from the 18th century through to the present. The silver collection is especially noteworthy.

  3. Architecture

    Given the city’s strong architectural heritage and focus, it is not surprising that Chicago’s Art Institute boasts an architecture and design department, one of only a few in the US. Sketches and drawings are accessible by appointment, and changing public displays feature models, drawings, and architectural pieces, such as a stained-glass window by Frank Lloyd Wright.

  4. Modern & Contemporary Art

    This important collection represents the significant arts movements in Europe and the US from 1950 to the present day, including a strong body of Surrealist works, and notable paintings by Picasso, Matisse, and Kandinsky, as well as showing how American artists, such as Georgia O’Keeffe, interpreted European Modernism. A limited number of artworks will be on view until 2009 while the galleries are being renovated.

  5. Photography

    Spanning the history of the medium, from its origins in 1839 to the present, this eminent collection was started by Georgia O’Keeffe in 1949 with the donation of works by Alfred Stieglitz. Many modern masters, including, Julien Levy, Edward Weston, Paul Strand, and Eugène Atget, are represented.

  6. Asian Art

    This sizeable collection covers 5,000 years and features Chinese ceramics and jades, Japanese screens, and Southeast Asian sculpture. The museum’s assemblage of Japanese woodblock prints, such as Courtesan (c. 1710) by Kaigetsudo Anchi, is one of the finest outside Japan. Look out, too, for the rare early 14th-century scroll painting, Legends of the Yuzu Nembutsu.

  7. African & Amerindian Art

    A variety of artifacts, including sculptures, masks, ceramics, furniture, textiles, bead-, gold-, and metal­work, make up this relatively small, but interesting collection. Exhibits from both continents are arranged by region and culture: ceremonial and ritual objects are particularly intriguing.

  8. Arms & Armor

    The Harding Collection of Arms and Armor is one of the largest in America. On permanent display are over 200 items related to the art of war including weapons, and complete and partial suits of armor for men – as well as horses. The items displayed originate from Europe, the United States, and the Middle East, and date from the 15th through the 19th centuries.

  9. Arthur Rubloff Paperweight Collection

    This fabulous and unusual assemblage numbers in excess of 1,400 paperweights, making it one of the largest of its kind in the world. It showcases colorful and exquisite examples from all periods, designs, and techniques. The paperweights mostly originate from 19th-century France, though some were made in America and the United Kingdom. Displays also reveal the secrets of how paperweights are made.

  10. Thorne Miniature Rooms

    Narcissa Ward Thorne, a Chicago art patron, combined her love of miniatures with her interest in interiors and decorative arts to create the 68 rooms in this unique Lilliputian installation. Some of the 1 inch:1 foot scale rooms are replicas of specific historic interiors, while others are period recreations, combining features copied from a variety of sites or based on illustrations and other records of period furniture.

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