Copying art in the Art Institute

The first place I went in Chicago was the Art Institute. That was the first stop on our trip; I really didn’t care what else I saw in that big city. The art museum was my “it” stop.

People have asked me (rhetorically, of course) how many hours can you stand to be in a museum? I snort. I can stand in front of one painting for at least an hour! Sheesh! How can you stand to leave an art museum!

My family went along with my obsession, but they began to look a bit gray after 4 hours of wandering through illustration, folk art, modern art, and impressionism.

And then I discovered gallery 273, the room that held works by John Singer Sargent. Hearing my squeals of excitement, husband and step-daughter sighed, collapsed on a bench, and whispered to each other until they fell into art-induced comas.  I wallowed in the paintings.

The Chicago Institute of art allows only pencil and paper in the museum, so I copied this painting (after Sargent’s Madame Paul Escudier) in graphite on BFK Rives, making notes about the color and value. That night in our B&B, I sat at one of the fussy little Victorian-style tables and added gouache paints to the drawing. The Rives takes gouache very well.

The design in this painting was so powerful. I love the little shapes of the lighted windows behind the heavy dark curtains and the figure. She seems to be trapped by those curtains. If you squint your eyes, she becomes a part of them, the dark value of her skirts forming another bar against the bright daylight behind her.

We also saw the play Ethan Frome, and the ticket stub as well as the theme of the play seemed to fit nicely on this page of Victoriana.

2 thoughts on “Copying art in the Art Institute

  1. I’ve been to Chicago—-and the Art Institute—-once and would love to visit both again. Thanks for this description, and, of course, the lovely, evocative painting: the slightest tilt of a head can say so much, too.

    Being in a museum is rather like being in a library in my mind: I want to move in for a few days to really experience the place.

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