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Daytripper: A look at the originals

Planning a visit to The Art Institute of Chicago

Last time in this neighborhood I was covering one of Sam Colonna’s amateur boxing shows at a posh, members-only social club.

This time I’ll be across the street, at The Art Institute of Chicago on Michigan Avenue. 

I want to take careful notes.  The ink in a pen could freeze up the walk over from the Ogilvie train station so I’ll bring a carpenter’s pencil, the kind sharpened with a pocketknife.

I’ll make my way through the deadly cold, through the bluster of panhandlers and stock traders and spend a day in a warm museum.

I’ll dwell at the medieval-weaponry exhibit – the suits of armor, the swords, the shields and the lances used for jousting. It’s the first exhibit you see as you walk in.

Most of the time I come here I am by myself. I admit The Art Institute is not for everyone.  My now grown sons – about five years ago – started moaning that they were bored out of their minds after we’d been there about a half hour. 

I don’t consider myself a culture snob. But I do find the originals fascinating.  

Take, as an example, “Night Hawks,” a 1942 painting by Edward Hopper. You see this painting parodied and used in ad campaigns. At The Art Institute you can get close to the original, see the brushstrokes instead of the pixels.

A copy of “American Gothic” – by the painter Grant Wood – used to hang at the now defunct Grant Wood Elementary School – my old school in Elk Grove Village.  It’s a portrait of a glum farmer holding a pitchfork. His spinster daughter is by his side. 

The original “American Gothic” hangs in The Art Institute. I always look for it when I’m there. The curators at the museum don’t give it much prominence or ballyhoo, in my opinion. It’s always hanging in some out-of-the-way alcove or a connecting hallway.

Sure, the competition is fierce. You have Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh and Pablo Picasso hanging around.

Free Winter Weekdays

Admission to The Art Institute of Chicago is free weekdays Jan. 7 through Feb. 13.

Open daily 10:30am – 5pm. Thursday open until 8pm.

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