This past June The Art Institute of Chicago unveiled its newest exhibition, “Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity” in conjunction with two other museums; the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York) and Musée d’Orsay (Paris). I am by no means an expert in art, or for that matter formally educated in art, however, I do appreciate the many forms it takes. This is the second major exhibition for the Chicago museum this year; an impressive Picasso show wrapped up in late spring. This newest however, if by far one of the best installations I have seen in recent memory.
In particular, the exhibition takes you through stages; history, settings, fashion, culture. There are three of these areas of which I found to be outstanding in every sense. “En Plein Air” transports you from the confines of the museum to a picnic set in the French landscape, 150 years ago. All five senses are aroused. You are amongst the birds; you feel and hear the grass below foot. You can almost smell the perfume of the uncorked wine and feel the sunlight on your shoulder through the chiffon and cotton ruffles. One of my favorite paintings, “Luncheon on the Grass” (Claude Monet, 1865, two panels) is divine. I want to dawn the corset and full length dresses of the time and sit amongst those portrayed before me. From outside on the lawn on a summer day you then arrive to an evening party with “La Parisieene” (Edouard Manet, 1885) and “A Ball” (Jean Béraud, 1878). The lace, the silk, and all its finery displayed in remarkable detail. Third on my list of favorites, and not in the least bit last, is “In The Boudoir”. Henri Gervex’s “Rolla” (1878). “Falsehood, satisfaction. Truth has little bearing”. This exhibit, each of the three times I have now viewed it now, leaves me inspired. Life a long ago told with oils, graphite and canvas. Far more emotionally stirring than anything my iPad can conceive.
If you have time to spare, visit the museum, taken in this exhibit, then head upstairs to the Terrace in the Modern Wing and enjoy a delightful lunch with views of downtown Chicago. Historic and architecturally significant views. The Terrace, part of Terzo Piano serves a small but well thought out menu. If you are a member, consider an espresso while enjoying the newly renovated Members Lounge located on the main floor off the Modern Wing. If you are not a member, I highly suggest joining. The small member fee is well worth the investment.