I took a short trip last week to visit family in Chicago. Athough i've been many times, I couldn't pass up the chance for another visit to the Chicago Art Institute. I had a few free hours and made the walk a few miles down Michigan ave in 28 degree weather to say hello. Entirely worth the chill. It isn't a huge museum, and is probably more associated with its Impressionist exhibits, but they have a great collection of European paintings...which is of course, where I tend to spend my time. (They added a modern art wing since my last visit, which I walked briskly through until I got frustrated...I'll spare you the complaints.) Although I love traipsing around the European Painting wing, i'm really only concerned with visiting two paintings: Ingrés's "Amédée-David, the Comte de Pastoret", and Rembrandt's "Old Man with a Gold Chain". (I'm sure i've written about these in the past, but as I can obviously revisit, anybody that's been reading this for that long...get's to revisit with me.)
Ingrés's portrait is one of my favorite paintings...period. I love this thing. I had never heard of Ingrés when I first ran into it years ago at the same museum, and it still strikes me as it did then. It's a fairly standard portrait, nothing close to the opulence and grandeur of his portrait of Napoleon (here, which I also love), but its the simplicity I think that draws me in. it's subtle and grand at the same time...and the detail is unreal. [a note: there doesn't seem to be any white paint in the highlights on the sword handle, only stronger yellows -- which is totally something I would do; screwing things up by adding an inappropriate cool color and overdoing the contrast at the same time. noted... thanks Jean]. I generally find it hard to get into portraits who's subjects I don't find particularly attractive, but the lacking aesthetics of mr. sideburns is doubly made up for in the composition, colors, and costume. I spent 20 minutes staring at it again, and walked out entirely inspired. I see some fancy poses and silly costumes in my painting future.
Rembrandt's portrait of an "old man", dressed in who-knows-what, is just a great representation of why Rembrandt, is Rembrandt. This painting was done in 1631! It fucking glows. all eloquence goes out the window when I write/think about Rembrandt...I just don't get it. unlike with Ingrés, I pay a lot less attention to what Rembrandt actually paints (as it's predominantly old guys), and find myself lost in how he paints...or painted. (may as well be inconsistent with my past/present tense here too). the highlight on this dudes metal bib thing is perfect. and the background -- there's nothing going on there, but I still don't get how it looks so good...and I certainly can't execute it in my wildest dreams. it's that fact, and the frenzy his work puts me in, that make me love his paintings so much.
here are some others from the Museum that I really like, some of which I've seen numerous times, some that were brand new to me and my horrible memory. (click for more below)
I'm trying to learn a thing or two from Bouguereau. Specifically, his use of cool colors in flesh tones. I'm working on it.
I had never seen this Sargent, in print or in person, and it was tucked away in a corner as part of the Folk Art collection. really nice study.
I had never seen this one either, and I don't think I've even ever run across Lefebvre, but I really like this piece. I had to pull an internet photo (above) because they had this painting stacked on top of another...which made it super hard to see. but the figure is done so well. going to have to do some more research on this guy.
look at those feet!! generally my least favorite part about a figure painting (and the figure in general), but these are amazing! (click to get a larger version).