Art Institute of Chicago is one of these encyclopedic art museums of the world. You have permanent exhibitions that span continents and geographies, centuries and epochs, personalities and schools. I went there the other day expecting a regular museum visit for max. 2 hours or so (so long the concentration keeps, in my case) and left after half a day! I started with newly built part for contemporary art and ended with temporary exhibition on Roy Lichtenstein.
What struck me there were totally unexpected pieces as well as their arrangement. Here are some of personal favourites.
Pablo Picasso, “The Old Guitarist”
Here is an early work from his Blue Period. Not only the monochromatic tones are fascinating here, but also how much psychology and emotions you have in a painting. Picasso wouldn’t be himself if you don’t see another side of the image: what in this perspective seems to be a penniless old musician can also be, if the painting is seen horizontally, a man who is leisurely enjoying his music playing by laying on his side.
Piet Mondrian, “Farm near Duivendrecht”
Another atypical work: when one says Mondrian, you would think of his abstract and non-representational works. However, they are mainly based on his views on landscapes and when you see this one, representing his native Holland, you also understand why. Flat lines of horizons, vertical drawings for trees and architecture – in the end, not so far away from his cubist experiments.
Francis Picabia, “Tetes-paysage”
As unexpected as it gets! (Or, in other words, what do you see here?) This is another view of cubism, not the fragmented one, but rather the one that combines many sources of inspiration from classical traditions of Rome and Greece, Renaissance and Neoclassicism. Not only that it is surprising how the profiles and landscapes visually fit together, but there is something in the surrealistic air around it that brings so many interpretations to the painting.
Rene Magritte, “The Banquet”
Speaking of surrealists, I cannot then forget to bring my all-time-favourite Magritte. This representation is nothing unusual for him, but this image was rather unknown to me from Magritte. The red sun here is really blinding.
David Hockney, “American Collectors (Fred and Marcia Weisman)”
Also not atypical for Hockney, but I have to mention him here as one of most inventive contemporary artists. What is particularly interesting for this piece is reflection of both characters in totem pole to the right, the sculpture of Henry Moore that the couple possessed: his stiffness and her smile. The coldness between the couple is palpable and stands in direct contradiction with warm Californian light that is surrounding them. (The couple indeed split not so long after the painting has been made.)
Roberto Matta, “Untitled”
Couple of artists were rather new to me, as Roberto Matta, one of most famous Chilean artists, Wifredo Lam, Cuban painter, or Arshile Gorky, Armenian. To all of them it is common that they have experimented with modernism, surrealism and abstract expressionism, and were strongly influenced with strong art movement in New York.
Roy Lichtenstein, “Desk Calendar”
Control freak (and project manager) in me absolutely screamed of joy when I saw this one. Yes, very much unexpected and very much me – no unnecessary colors, no explicit messages, just straightforward. I couldn’t help but simply admire it.