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Art Institute of Chicago – A Virtual Tour

Art Institute of Chicago

Art Institute of Chicago – A Virtual Tour

The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the United States, with a permanent collection of about 300,000 works of art. 

As a research institution, the Art Institute of Chicago has a conservation science department, conservation laboratories, and one of the most extensive art history and architecture libraries in the United States.

A Virtual Tour of the Art Institute of Chicago

Art Institute of Chicago Collection

The collection covers over 5,000 years of human expression from cultures around the world and is organized into eleven departments or collections.

American Art Collection

The American Art collection has some of the best-known works of American artists ranging from colonial silver to contemporary paintings.

European Painting and Sculpture Collection

The museum’s collections of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist paintings include works from Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Georges Seurat, Henri Matisse, Vincent van Gogh.

The collection also has the Medieval and Renaissance Art, Arms, and Armor Holdings and three centuries of Old Masters works.

Modern and Contemporary Art Collection

The museum’s collection of modern and contemporary art was significantly artwork from artists such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman, Jackson Pollock, Jasper Johns, and other significant modern and contemporary artists.

Ancient and Byzantine Collection

The ancient collection spans 4,000 years of art and history, with Greek, Etruscan, Roman, and Egyptian sculpture, mosaics, pottery, jewelry, glass, bronze statues, and ancient coins. There are around 5,000 works in the collection extending to the Byzantine Empire.

African Art and Indian Art of the Americas Collection

The African Arts and Indian Art of the Americas collections include more than 400 works that span the continent, highlighting ceramics, garments, masks, and jewelry. The collection consists of Native North American art and Mesoamerican and Andean works.

Asian Art Collection

The Asian collection spans nearly 5,000 years, with works from China, Korea, Japan, India, Southeast Asia, and the Near and Middle East. There are 35,000 objects showcasing bronzes, ceramics, and jades as well as textiles, screens, woodcuts, and sculptures.

Architecture and Design Collection

The Architecture and Design Collection holds 140,000 works, from models to drawings from the 1870s to the present day. The collection covers landscape architecture, structural engineering, and industrial design, including the works of famous architects and designers.

European Decorative Arts Collection

The European Decorative Arts collection includes some 25,000 objects of furniture, ceramics, metalwork, glass, enamel, and ivory from 1100 A.D. to the present day.

Textiles Collection

The Textiles collection is over 13,000 textiles and 66,000 sample swatches in total, covering cultures from 300 B.C. to the present.

Prints and Drawings Collection

The print and drawings collection has grown to 11,500 drawings and 60,000 prints, ranging from 15th-century works to contemporary.

The collection has works of Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt van Rijn, Francisco Goya, and James McNeill Whistler. Because works on paper are sensitive to light, the works are not on permanent display to preserve the work.

Photography Collection

The photography collection kicked-off when Georgia O’Keeffe donated a significant part of the Alfred Stieglitz collection to the museum.

Today the museum’s collection has grown to about 20,000 works spanning from Photography’s start in 1839 to the present.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – Art Institute of Chicago scene

Highlights of the Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago, founded in 1879 and located in Chicago’s Grant Park, its collection covers over 5,000 years of human expression from cultures around the world and contains more than 300,000 works of art.

“A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.” by Georges Seurat

“A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” is one of Georges Seurat’s most famous works, and is a leading example of pointillism technique on a large canvas.

Seurat’s composition depicts Parisians at a provincial park on the banks of the River Seine. Seurat was one of the leaders of a new and rebellious form of Impressionism called Neo-Impressionism.

“Nighthawks” by Edward Hopper

Nighthawks by Edward Hopper, depicts people in a downtown diner late at night. It is Hopper’s most famous painting and one of the most recognizable pictures in American art.

A dinner inspired the scene in Greenwich Village near Hopper’s neighborhood in Manhattan, which has since been demolished. Hopper said that a restaurant on Greenwich Avenue suggested the painting.

He also stated that “I simplified the scene a great deal and made the restaurant bigger.”

“Paris Street, Rainy Day” by Gustave Caillebotte

“Paris Street, Rainy Day” by Gustave Caillebotte is his best-known work and depicts Parisians walking in the rain through the Place de Dublin in 1877 Paris.

Caillebotte was a friend of many of the impressionist painters, and this painting is part of that tradition. However, it differs in its realism and reliance on line rather than broad brush strokes.

It also reflects Caillebotte’s interest in photography.

“American Gothic” by Grant Wood

“American Gothic” by Grant Wood depicts a farmer standing beside a woman. The woman is dressed in a colonial print apron evoking traditional Americana, and the man is holding a pitchfork.

The inspiration came to Wood in his decision to paint what is known as the American Gothic House, along with: “the kind of people I fancied should live in that house.”

“The Child’s Bath” by Mary Cassatt

“The Child’s Bath” by Mary Cassatt was inspired by Japanese woodblocks and depicts a mother or female carer bathing of a child. 

The female figure holds up the child firmly and protectively while washing the child’s feet. The left arm of the child braces against the mother’s thigh, while the other hand is holding on the child’s leg.

The painting reflects the dignity of motherhood.

“Houses of Parliament, London” by Claude Monet

The Houses of Parliament by Claude Monet is one in a series of paintings of the Palace of Westminster, home of the British Parliament, created during the early 1900s while Monet stayed in London.

All of the series’ paintings share the same viewpoint from Monet’s terrace at St Thomas’ Hospital overlooking the Thames and the approximate similar canvas size.

They depict different times of the day and weather conditions.

Bathers by Paul Cézanne

Bathers by Paul Cézanne is a reinterpreting of a historical tradition of painting nude figures in the landscape by famous artists such as Titian and Poussin.

Historically artists took inspiration from classical myths. Cézanne, however, was not depicting a mythological story; he was more concerned with the harmony of the figures to the landscape.

When this painting was exhibited in 1907, it became an inspiration for Picasso, Matisse, and other artists who were exploring and developing new art movements.

‘Bathers’ is reminiscent of earlier artists’ works, and comparisons can be made with more modern works such as Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.

“Arrival of the Normandy Train, Gare Saint-Lazare” by Claude Monet

“Arrival of the Normandy Train, Gare Saint-Lazare” by Claude Monet is one of four surviving Monet paintings representing the interior of the Saint-Lazare train station.

Monet depicted the Gare St-Lazare as an interior landscape, with smoke from the engines creating the same effect as clouds in the sky. 

After several years of painting in the countryside in Argenteuil, he turned to urban landscapes in Paris. Monet was diversifying his portfolio and competing with other painters of modern life.

In this painting, Monet successfully captured the effects of light, movement, and clouds of steam in a modern urban setting.

“Saint Martin and the Beggar” by El Greco

“Saint Martin and the Beggar” by El Greco depicts the best-known story on the life of the Christian Saint Martin of Tours.

When he was in the Roman cavalry used his military sword to cut his cloak in two, to give half to a beggar who was clad only in rags in the depth of winter.

Saint Martin of Tours (336 – 397) was the third bishop of Tours after he had served in the Roman cavalry in Gaul and converted to Christianity at a young age.

This smaller version by El Greco is in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago; a larger version is in the collection of The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

Two Sisters or On the Terrace by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Two Sisters or On the Terrace by Pierre-Auguste Renoir depicts the upper terrace of the Maison Fournaise, a family restaurant located on an island in the Seine in Chatou, the western suburb of Paris.

The painting shows a young woman and her younger girl seated outdoors with a small basket containing balls of wool. In the background over the railings of the terrace, are flowering plants and vines.

Further in the background is the River Seine with boats and some buildings in the top left on the other side of the river.

Stacks of Wheat (End of Day, Autumn) by Claude Monet

Stacks of Wheat (End of Day, Autumn) by Claude Monet is part of a series of piles of harvested wheat.

The series consists of twenty-five canvas, which Monet began near the end of the summer of 1890, and though Monet also produced earlier paintings using this same stack subject.

The impressionist series is famous for how Monet repeated the same theme to show the different light and atmosphere at different times of day, across the seasons, and in many types of weather.

Monet’s Haystacks series is one of his earliest to rely on repetition of a subject to illustrate a subtle difference in color perception across variations of times of day, seasons, and weather. 

Monet settled in Giverny in 1883, and most of his paintings from then until his death 40 years later were of scenes within 3 kilometers (2 mi) of his home.

Monet was intensely aware of and fascinated by the visual nuances of the region’s landscape and by the endless variations in the days and the seasons.

Monet’s painted various subjects in series under different lights and seasons focused on depictions of atmospheric influences.

Stacks of Wheat (End of Summer) by Claude Monet

Stacks of Wheat (End of Summer) by Claude Monet is part of a series of piles of harvested wheat.

The impressionist Haystack series is famous for how Monet repeated the same theme to show the different light and atmosphere at different times of day, across the seasons, and in many types of weather.

Monet’s Haystacks is one of his earliest to rely on repetition of a subject to illustrate a subtle difference in color perception across variations of times of day, seasons, and weather.

The series consists of twenty-five canvas, which Monet began near the end of the summer of 1890.

“At the Moulin Rouge” by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

“At the Moulin Rouge” by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec is one of several works by Toulouse-Lautrec depicting the Moulin Rouge cabaret built in Paris in 1889.

This painting portrays a group of three men and two women sitting around a table situated on the floor of the nightclub.

In the background of this group is a self-portrait of Toulouse-Lautrec himself, who can be identified as the shorter stunted figure next to his taller companion. 

In the right foreground, sitting at a different table is the profile of a dancer, with her face lit in a distinctive light. In the background on the right are a Moulin Rouge dancer and another woman.

All the people whose faces are visible have been identified as regular patrons of the Moulin Rouge and acquaintances of the Toulouse-Lautrec.

“Nocturne: Blue and Gold – Southampton Water” by James Abbott McNeill Whistler

Nocturne: Blue and Gold – Southampton Water by James Abbott McNeill Whistler was an early 1870s step for the artist toward abstraction with his Nocturnes series.

Whistler captures the stillness of evening while evoking the artistry of music in the tonal harmonies of twilight. 

Whistler has depicted an inlet along the English Channel near Southampton obscured by the approaching night. Vessels appear as ghostly shapes and shadowy forms by the twilight as the fragmented moon is seen on the horizon.

“The Combat of the Giaour and Hassan” by Eugène Delacroix

“The Combat of the Giaour and Hassan” by Eugène Delacroix depicts a scene from Lord Byron’s 1813 poem “The Giaour.”

Giaour ambushed and killed Hassan, the Pasha because Giaour had fallen in love with Leila, a slave in Hassan’s harem, but Hassan had discovered this and had her killed. 

In 1824, Delacroix read “The Giaour” in its French translation and was captivated by the story as he produced three works with the title “The Combat of the Giaour and Hassan.”

The works are distinguished by their dates of 1826, 1835 and 1856. This painting, his first version in 1826 shows the Giaour and Hassan, both on horseback, fighting in a gorge.

A Turk who was escorting Hassan is on the ground trying to cut Giaour’s horse’s legs with his knife. Delacroix started this painting in 1824, the year Byron died in the struggle for Greek independence from the Turks.

Delacroix included this painting in a Parisian exhibition that was organized to support the popular Greek cause for freedom.

“Bedroom in Arles” by Vincent van Gogh

“Bedroom in Arles” by Vincent van Gogh describes three similar paintings by the Dutch Post-Impressionist painter created between 1888 – 1889.

Van Gogh’s title for this composition was simply “The Bedroom.” There are three versions, easily distinguishable from one another by the pictures on the wall to the right.

The bedroom was not rectangular but trapezoid, so no wall was at a right angle to any other wall. This reality may have contributed to its energy and instability, which is heightened by the prominent receding perspective.

Arlésiennes (Mistral) by Paul Gauguin

Arlésiennes (Mistral) by Paul Gauguin was painted while the artist was visiting Vincent van Gogh at the Yellow House in Arles.

Vincent van Gogh’s painting titled “Memory of the Garden at Etten” was influenced by this picture by Gauguin. Vincent was at pains to use his imagination in the way Gauguin was approving and supporting.

“A Tour of the Waterfalls of the Provinces” by Katsushika Hokusai

“A Tour of the Waterfalls of the Provinces” by Katsushika Hokusai is a series of landscape woodblock prints by the Japanese ukiyo-e artist Hokusai.

Completed between 1833–34 and containing eight prints, it was the first ukiyo-e series to approach the theme of falling water.

The waterfalls take up most of each print, dwarfing the scenes’ human inhabitants, which are rendered by Hokusai with a powerful sense of life, reflecting his animistic beliefs.

  • Horse-Wax Waterfall
  • Roben Waterfall at Mount Oyama in Sagami Province
  • Kirifuri Waterfall at Kurokami Mountain in Shimotsuke
  • Waterfall at Aoi Hill
  • Yōrō Waterfall in Mino Province
  • Travelers climbing a steep hill to reach the Kannon sanctuary
  • Ono Waterfall on the Kisokaidō
  • Amida Falls in the Far Reaches of the Kisokaido

Art Institute of Chicago

Visiting  the Art Institute of Chicago

  • A City Pass offers significant savings on Fast Pass admission to the Art Institute of Chicago’s galleries and nonticketed special exhibitions.
  • The museum is open daily 10:30–5:00 and Thursdays until 8:00. The museum and its shops are closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
  • The Art Institute of Chicago is located in Chicago, across from Millennium Park and steps from Lake Michigan.
  • Pictures in the galleries?
    • Non-flash photography is permitted in all permanent galleries. There are also signs that indicate the few works that are not allowed to be photographed due to a lender requirement.
  • Is sketching allowed?
    • Only Sketching with pencils is allowed, provided there are no restrictions by lenders.

Art Institute of Chicago

  • Name:               Art Institute of Chicago
  • City:                   Chicago
  • Country:            United States
  • Established:      1879
  • Type:                  Art Museum
  • Collection Size:  300,000
  • Locations:          111 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL

Facts about the Art Institute of Chicago

  • The Art Institute was founded as both a museum and school for the fine arts in 1879, but it wasn’t until 1893 that the current Michigan Avenue building was constructed in time for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.
  • The two bronze lions that flank the Michigan Avenue entrance were made for the Art Institute’s opening at its current location in 1893.
  • The lions are not identical and are named for their poses by their sculptor.  The south lion stands “In an Attitude of Defiance,” and the north lion is “On the Prowl.”
  • In the museum logo, there a “V” where there should be a “U” in the word “Institute” as it references the lettering on the original 1893 building, which followed the classical Latin precedent in using a “V” instead of a “U.”
  • The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) is one of the oldest accredited independent schools of art and design in the country.
  • The Chicago Stock Exchange Trading Room was reconstructed at the Art Institute in 1976. This room was originally built in 1893, was demolished in 1972.

WALKING TOUR  The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

A Tour of Chicago’s Museums

A Tour of the Top Museums in the USA

Conserving Ancient and Byzantine Art at the Art Institute of Chicago

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“Well done is better than well said.”
– Benjamin Franklin

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Photo Credit: By Kim Scarborough (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 us (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/us/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

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