From America Windows to American Gothic, Musement takes a look at 10 must-see works at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Founded in 1979, the Art Institute of Chicago, one of the oldest museums in the United States and the county’s second-largest, warrants a visit in and of itself. The collection contains 300,000 artworks among 11 curatorial departments, spanning 5,000 years and various cultures.
At nearly one million square feet, the vast museum covers a lot of ground, so we thought we’d help you out. Here are ten works you shouldn’t miss at the Art Institute of Chicago.
1. American Gothic , Grant Wood, 1930
One of the most important modern art paintings, Grant Wood’s American Gothic features a farmer and his daughter in front of an American Gothic-style home in Iowa, the farmer clutching a pitchfork. This pop-culture phenomenon has been parodied dozens of times over the years.
2. A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, Georges Seurat, 1884 – 1886
Another iconic image and also the subject of Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George musical, is an exquisite pointillist composition depicting Parisians spending a leisurely Sunday afternoon in a park on its titular island located in the River Seine.
3. The Bedroom, Vincent Van Gogh, 1888
The second of three versions of the artist’s bedroom at his home in Arles, the work exhibits Van Gogh’s approach to color and his intricate brush strokes. He actually painted this from memory during his time in a psychiatric hospital.
4. Nighthawks, Edward Hopper, 1942
This image depicts four night owls seated in a diner on a quiet New York City street corner. Light beams out from the facade, brightening the dark and desolate sidewalk. A couple sits on one side of the bar and a man on the other while the man behind the counter tends to them. It’s mysterious, poignant, and lonely—the boundary of the glass window enhances the silence of the street corner for viewers.
5. Water Lilies, Monet, 1906
6. The Child’s Bath, Mary Cassatt, 1893
The only American artist (and one of a few females) to participate in the Impressionist Exhibition, Mary Cassatt is known for a soft delicate style and pastels. Her work captures domestic life, particularly women, with a tender, feminine touch. Cassatt attended an 1890 exhibition of Japanese prints at Paris’ École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and incorporate some Janapense influences into the work.
7. The Old Guitarist , Pablo Picasso, 1903 – 1904
Arguably the most significant painting of the artist’s Blue Period, The Old Guistarist portrays a gaunt old blind man in threadbare clothing sitting on a Barcelona street, hunched over his guitar. Picasso painted this at a point in his career where he focused on the downtrodden, and the powerful image is evocative and even heartbreaking.
8. America Windows, Marc Chagall, 1977
This Russian-French Modernist artist is associated with many styles and mediums, one of which is stained glass. Though he uses mostly religious symbolism, this trio of windows falls on the secular side, implementing symbols from American history, the Chicago skyline, and the arts.
9. Paris Street; Rainy Day, Gustave Caillebotte, 1877
An Impressionist who leaned toward realism, Gustave Caillebotte also had an interest in photography, which comes across in the work. Paris Street; Rainy Day shows an everyday street scene of pedestrians passing through the Place de Dublin (formerly the Carrefour de Moscou) in the eighth arrondissement of Paris.
10. Two Sisters (On the Terrace), Pierre August Renoir, 1881
One of Renoir’s most notable works, Two Sisters (On the Terrace) is an endearing portrait of two young girls seated on a restaurant terrace with the Seine behind them. One is holding a basket of wool and they’re both accessorized with florals. The painting evokes is sweet and beautiful, and evokes a sense of joy and conviviality.