My friend Tim was in town this weekend from St. Paul, Minnesota and wanted to take a spin through the Art Institute, and Dolores said she was sick of hanging around the apartment, so on Saturday afternoon the three of us joined the throng at 111 South Michigan Avenue.
Our first stop was a temporary exhibition, Girodet: Romantic Rebel. In case you've not heard of him, which you probably haven't, Girodet was a student of David who has kept a rather low profile since his heyday in the years just on either side of 1800. There's considerable buzz around the show, which was the brainchild of the Cleveland Museum of Art and helped along by the Louvre. Girodet, so the gossip goes, is a master sadly neglected and now rediscovered.
There are about 100 pieces in the show, ranging from small prints and drawings to heroic canvasses. All of them are at least workmanlike, several have considerable bravura, and one–his take on the myth of Endymion–could not be improved upon, especially in its use of dramatic light. But a neglected master? No. If you plan on stopping by, Endymion is hanging in the second room, so you can duck in and duck out without missing anything.
(The show's signature image, The Burial of Atala, is hanging in the final room and it's typical eau sucré from the period. Pretty? Oh my word, yes. Why, the only thing missing is the basket of kittens!)
All the same, I'm pathetically grateful to the Art Institute for not mounting one effing Impressionist show after another. I had to deal with that during my years in Boston, and it was one of the things that drove me out of the city.
After Girodet, we wandered about the galleries with no fixed plan. My mind, which turns (ha, ha) very much on spinning just at present, kept spotting works I'd never given much notice before, such as La Filatrice:
Ain't she a honey? Here's a close-up of the business end of her apparatus.
Then, in the Thorne Rooms (an amazing collection of miniature tableaux that showcase the history of interior design), I found this:
In the photograph, it's just about actual size. Impressive, eh?
Everything was just dandy until we visited the Impressionist galleries. Tim and I were standing in front of a Monet water lily canvas of which he's fond when a guard came over, tapped me on the shoulder, and said, "Sir? Would you kindly tell your sheep to please stop licking the haystacks?"
I was going to deliver a stern lecture about the effects of ovine saliva on oil paint, but in Dolores's defense it was getting to be time for lunch so I let it go.
I shouldn't have. As were leaving, we passed a children's art class and Dolores, who feels strongly about art education (she's apparently just two credits shy of her MFA in the field) decided it would not do to have the little darlings working from a dreary bust by Horatio Greenough.
We were then asked if we would mind leaving the museum and never coming back again.
You'd think I'd have learned my lesson, but no. The next day, C wanted to check out the new Warhol exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art and there was simply no keeping her at home.
It was all downhill from here. Apparently the nice people at the MCA don't care what Liz Taylor did to you at Andy's birthday party in 1963. They still expect you to leave her portrait right there on the wall where they put it.