Friday, May 23, 2014

The Power of Art

All this talk about the American Made Brand Blog Tour got me thinking about fun things to do in my state of Illinois. So, the other day I decided I would try to do a tour of museums in Chicago and other surrounding areas this summer and then blog about them. If you're planning on traveling around this summer and happen to be in the Chicago area, maybe you'll get some ideas.

Yesterday, I kicked off my tour and went to Number One on my list -  the Art Institute of Chicago - with my husband, daughter and sister-in-law. Nothing revitalizes me like being in downtown Chicago.

Some of the wonderful things you can see at the Art Institute if you're ever in the city -

First, we saw the  Arthur Rubloff paperweight collection. Over two thousand (!) glass paperweights, filled with gorgeous color, pattern and design. Some paperweights are antique French (Baccarat); others are contemporary with an antique look. All are mesmerizing.

I've had  a glass paperweight collection for years - but with only one paperweight, sigh. . . . Time to add more I think.

According to the Chicago Tribune, paperweights also have an interesting link to Chicago.

"They're part of Chicago history, which makes this very exciting. Chicago is where the skyscraper was invented. And skyscrapers were without air conditioning, so you opened the windows. Sullivan and Burnham would have had stacks of pieces of paper, and open windows everywhere. How do you keep those papers in place? Why, with paperweights, of course."

 "Honey Bee Swarm With Flowers and Fruit" - honeybees floating over a cluster of flowers and around a honeycomb. The only place I would consider getting close to bees - when they're in a paperweight.

Next we went to see the Thorne rooms -  the miniature rooms I know I've talked about here before. The Thorne rooms were the "creative endeavor" of Mrs. James Ward Thorne, a Chicago socialite who began collecting antique miniatures at a young age. Inspired by actual rooms in historic houses and museums, the permanent collection features 68 rooms that were made (commissioned by her) between 1934 and 1940, constructed on a scale of one inch to one foot. As a child growing up in Chicago, I remember visiting and drooling over these tiny rooms and furnishings, my nose pressed up to the glass, and my daughter did the same (still does). I could have spent hours here.


Continuing on, we saw the Modern Art Wing, the American Art section, the Medieval Art section and much more.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Actually, I was more struck by this young woman and how she seemed to match the painting.

The museum also houses one of the largest and most significant collections of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art in the world. Second to the Louvre in Paris.

It's hard to get near this famous painting - A Sunday on La Grande Jatte  by Georges Seurat. 

It helps if you're persistent, tell everyone in your group to go on ahead and then just wait it out (or push your way up to the front).

I love learning about how famous art is acquired - In the summer of 1924, Frederic Bartlett and his wife, Helen, had the opportunity to purchase Georges Seurat's masterpiece A Sunday on La Grande Jatte. Writing from an ocean liner en route to the US from Europe, he enthused:

"We had wonderfully good luck . . . as we were able to get almost by a miracle what is considered to be almost the finest modern picture in France, La Grande Jatte by Seurat."

Bartlett began assembling a collection of "modern" (at the time) paintings and in 1926 he gave the collection to the Art Institute in memory of his recently deceased wife. 

This painting has been one of my favorites for years - Paris Street; Rainy Day by Caillebotte. The people in the foreground look like they're going to just continue walking and step outside the painting right in front of you.

Well, that's it - you've seen a portion of what's there. We had a great time. As usual, I hope many of you weren't bored since it was not about quilting. I have a life too you know, LOL. This was a nice cap to my week and I wanted to share. There's nothing quite like a nice overdose of culture to make you feel good about life and art. Studies have shown that viewing works of art can not only give your brain a boost but give the viewer as much joy as gazing upon a loved one. Even art you don't like still sends a message to the brain and increases blood flow. So now this means there's scientific truth to what has been known for a long time – that beautiful paintings have the power to make us feel good, about ourselves and life. 


  1. I just made my first trip to the Art Institute about a month ago after lunch at Berghoff's. What a treat! I had no idea such fabulous art was on display there. We only had a couple of hours and missed all the American art. Hopefully I'll get back there again someday.

  2. I LOVE this place! Love, love, love it! The first time I went (last century), they had a Matisse that I'd never seen before and instantly fell in love with it but could never find a print of it. So I kept going back, but that was the one and only time it was on display. I don't particularly like Chicago, but I LOVE the Art Institute! You are so lucky to live close to it!

  3. One of the book groups that I belong to read "Claude and Camille" and since we often try to combine trips etc. with books that we have read we are going to the Art Institute to see some of the impressionists works. I went to Van Gogh's museum in Amsterdam this spring. Wonderful.
    A side note, my bleeding heart is in bloom. Aren't the blooms lovely?

  4. My daughters and I are planning our first trip to Chicago in 5 weeks. No. 1 on our list is the Art Institute! What other recommendations do you have for 3 East Tennesseans? We have 4 days...

  5. Merci pour ce reportage, j'aime beaucoup Caillebotte !

  6. I have never been to Chicago - (I am in the UK). The museum looks amazing - I could also spend hours looking at miniature anything!

  7. M'encanta visitar museus i passar-me hores contemplant obres d'art!
    Quan visiti Chicago no me'l perdré!
    Una abraçada

  8. Thank you for sharing your visit with us. I truly enjoyed the tour. I would really like to see the miniature rooms someday. They look amazing.

  9. I live in the Netherlands,so Chicago is too far for a visit. However we are lucky enough to have paintings of George Seurat in the Kröller Müller Museum.From May 23 to September 7 2014 there is a special exhibition. Please Google and you will find a Youtube video: www.KröllerMü
    We live only 30 miles away and are planning to vitit this museum.
    Rietje van Slagmaat

  10. I love all the photos and what a great visit. Thank you for doing it, I love it.

  11. Takes me back 45 years....growing up NW Chicago and taking art all 4 years of HS we made minimum 2 teaching trips a year to The Art Institute. After accomplishing the teaching portion we were free to go to lunch and visit any exhibits we wanted. What glorious freedom for teens....a group always raced to the miniature rooms and than I split off to bind with 20th century art wing, the full scale furniture and the Serate painting was where the class reassembled to bus back to Cary.....not a hardship to stand and wait as there was always something new to discover in such a large art piece.

    25 years next to NYC never have spent the time I should have at MOMA and other world class museums...have been lucky two towns over to have shows come to me in an historic museum, small, quaint, fabulous art in my backyard....

    Looking forward to what else leads you about this summer.

    Jane Modjeski

  12. Wonderful post! I hope to visit Chicago one day! I have yet to hear a bad word about it... my hubby was there on business and he enjoyed the area very much! I like the painting with the lady in blue surrounded by white flowers... so tranquil. I remember going to NYC (1987) to see a play "Sunday In The Park With George"... it was a field trip with my French class... the play centered around the painting... unfortunately I remember less about the play (it was all in French) than I do about my studies of the French language... lol! The one thing I remember vividly is the play ended with all characters in position to resemble the painting... beautiful! Wishing you a blessed Memorial Day Weekend! :-)

  13. If you are ever in Columbus, OH, consider visiting Topiary Park, which replicates Seurat's La Grande Jatte. I love that painting, and have found that viewing paintings inspires my quilting. I have learned so much about the use of color, value, and especially unity and balance from others' art! Thanks for the reminder!

  14. Loved your post - this is one of my favorite places to visit in Chicago. There is a wonderful outdoor eating restaurant which is part of the Art Institute - rather pricy - great atmosphere on a lovely summer day. For our visitors to Chicago I would recommend the Devil in the White City Tour put on by the Chicago Architecture Foundation. The tour is based on a true story by Eric Larsen about two events that took place around the time of the World's Columbian Exposition.
    Carmel821 8685835

  15. Although I visited Chicago for a week years ago for business, I was not able to visit the Art Institute. I taught Fine Arts for a few years and recognize many of the paintings you wrote about, so I definitely want to go now. Any time I get to see work by an artist I've taught, I get so excited. Imagine my thrill if I were able to go to AI! Thanks for the great post from Louisiana's AMB blogger.

  16. I am from Sonora, CA. We are known for all of our green trees and we are called the foothills. I have always wanted to visit Chicago. You are so right that museums do help give ourselves the culture needed to make us feel alive about life and art. Thank you for being a part of this AMB Blog Tour and sharing the history with all of us.

    Sandi Timmons

  17. I have been to Illinois and would love to visit again. One of my favorite states to visit is New York...not NYC, but upstate. It is so beautiful and unlike the southern part of NY. The thousand Island are is amazing too. I am born and raised in Washington state, so maybe I'm just drawn to how green it is!

  18. I was born in Illinois and grew up in Chicago. I still miss it. Thank you so much for visiting and reporting on many of my favorites - I even still have a poster of the Caillebotte hanging in my home - now Vancouver, WA. Loved it all.

    Also love your quilts several of which are on my do list.



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