Want to See This Everywhere?

POSTED BY , ON April 11, 2014, 1 COMMENTS


And by everywhere, we really do mean everywhere. In fact, we mean Art Everywhere, the largest outdoor national art show ever conceived. Starting in August, approximately 50 masterpieces of American art from the five participating museums—the Art Institute of Chicago, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art—will pop up on as many as 50,000 displays nationwide, including billboards, subway platforms, and on bus shelters, and the selection will be curated with the help of an online vote. Which is where you come in. Currently there are 100 artworks that will be culled down and every day through May 7, you can vote for 10. Over the years, we’ve highlighted a number of our paintings in contention, but we thought we’d take a look at one of the lesser known works, Winslow Homer’s The Water Fan.

This painting depicts a young black man intently searching for coral using a glass-bottomed bucket. Referred to as a “water glass” or “sponge glass,” this device was used to stabilize the surface of moving water in order to improve visibility. Homer may have been attracted to the subject because it draws attention to the constantly moving surface of the water as well as its transparency, aspects of the sea that especially intrigued him in the Bahamas. This work originally had more visible red washes in the water, hinting at the pink coral beneath the surface. While these areas have faded over time, the fluid strokes of darker blue over layers of transparent turquoise are effective in suggesting the play of light, both direct and reflected, over water.

So start thinking now about your summer road trip and what you might want to see along the way. And as they say in Chicago, vote early and often!

Image Credit: Winslow Homer. The Water Fan, 1898/99. Gift of Dorothy A., John A., Jr., and Christopher Holabird in memory of William and Mary Holabird.


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Our Very Own Game of Thrones

POSTED BY , ON April 07, 2014, 0 COMMENTS

Full disclosure: there are quite a few of us here at the museum who are big fans of (or mildly obsessed with) the HBO series Game of Thrones, which premiered its fourth season last night. And while you might think that it’s a bit of a stretch to discuss the show here, there are actually quite a few connections we could make between aspects of Westeros and the museum’s collection.

But we decided to start with the titular throne. The Iron Throne that Joffrey Baratheon currently sits on does not look very cozy. Made from the blades of one thousand swords, it is the seat of ultimate power, but also the seat that makes you the biggest target in Westeros. In fact, in the words of Ned Stark, “it is a monstrous uncomfortable chair. In more ways than one.”

And while all thrones do indicate some kind of power, not all thrones are quite so forbidding. We took a closer look at the museum’s holdings to find some examples:


This 15th-century Netherlandish print illustrates a story from the life of King Solomon, who was renowned for his wisdom. He’s seated on a throne at the top of this dramatic print and judges a case case of two children, one of whom had recently died, and two women claiming to be the mother of the survivor. He threatened to divide the child between them (using the sword held by a servant at left) in order to determine the truth. With this clever ruse, he easily identified the child’s mother, who would rather her child live with another woman than be killed.

Veranda Post

In this composition of four figures, the king is not the largest, but as the only person who is seated and crowned, he is seen as the most powerful. His senior wife stands prominently behind him, her imposing height conveying the powerful role she plays in maintaining his power. But her position behind him indicates her support for and loyalty to him. The two smaller figures represent a junior spouse and another attendant. This vertical piece would have served as an architectural embellishment in a palace and would have projected the authority, prosperity, and power of royalty.

Roman Statuette

This statuette is thought to depict Concordia, the Roman personification of harmony, one of the four principal virtues of the Roman Empire. Concordia sits on a high-backed throne and wears an ornamental headband, a long tunic tied above her waist, and a cloak, which drapes over her left shoulder and lap. The figure likely held a libation dish in her extended right hand and a cornucopia (horn of plenty) in her missing left hand.


The materials that make up this throne are a bit more atypical. The crowned Buddha is seated in the pose of meditation on a throne formed by the coils of the serpent king Muchalinda, whose own seven heads form a sheltering canopy around the figure.

If this hasn’t dissuaded you from coveting the Iron Throne, you can purchase your very own replica for a mere $30,000. But a final warning from Cersei Lannister: “when you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.”

Image Credits:

The Judgment of Solomon, c. 1475–1500. Netherlands. Clarence Buckingham Collection.

Olowe of Ise. Veranda Post of Enthroned King and Senior Wife (Opo Ogoga), 1910/14. Major Acquisitions Centennial Fund.

Statuette of an Enthroned Figure. 1st century A.D. Roman. Wirt D. Walker Endowment.

Buddha Shelttered by Muchalinda, 11th-12th century. Cambodian. Samuel M. Nickerson Endowment.

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Closing Soon: The Year of the Horse

POSTED BY , ON April 04, 2014, 0 COMMENTS

Young Horseman

Closing this weekend in the Ando Gallery, The Year of the Horse celebrates Chinese New Year and this year’s featured animal within the Chinese zodiac. As far back as the 3rd century B.C., animals have been associated with each year in a 12 year cycle and their respective characteristics are supposed to relate to the attributes of humans born in that year. The horse is associated with strength, energy, intelligence, communication, and popularity, but also impatience and stubbornness. This year of the horse officially began at the end of January and lasts until the next Chinese New Year in February 2015.

Horses have been long revered in Asian culture and this small exhibition includes several prints that show young men on horseback. In the image above, the youthful rider takes part in “first riding,” an element of the coming-of-age ceremonies for a boy of the samurai class. He tentatively rides the prancing horse, while a maid carrying a parasol shields the rider from the sun.

Horse Panel 1

It also features a new acquisition, a pair of folding screens (shown both above and below) from the turn of the 18th century that each measure over 12 feet long. These panels illustrate an expansive tableau with six tethered horses in various energetic positions. Several other horses are in the process of being washed by grooms in the lake between the buildings. Other groups of people work, nap, and even play board games in this idyllic scene. Screens like this one were popular at this time and were often commissioned by warriors to show off their horses, their prized possessions, or to remind them of military culture.

Horse Panel 2

The Year of the Horse closes this Sunday and might be particularly interesting to those of you born in 1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, and 2002.

Image credits:

Suzuki Harunobu. The Young Horseman, c. 1766/67. Clarence Buckingham Collection.

Horses in Stables (Umaya-zu byobu), c. 1688-1704 (Genroku Period). Japanese. Shinkokai Japanese Art Acquisition Fund, The Mary and Leigh Block Endowment Fund, Gookin FUnd, restricted gift of Roger L. Weston; Avery L. Brundage and Roger L. Weston funds.

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Christopher Wool: TRBL

POSTED BY , ON March 28, 2014, 0 COMMENTS


Christopher Wool’s stenciled word paintings are among his best known works. Frequently coming from a place of anxiety or impending threat, these paintings make it deliberately difficult to read and assemble meaning, interrupting the normal flow of language. For example, we’re used to vowels and we’re accustomed to words being on one line (for the most part).

Most visitors do correctly read this painting and it is helpfully titled Trouble to ensure we’re all on the same page. Which is helpful considering it could be called Tribal or Treble and adhere to the same structure. But in the artist’s view, the word paintings function most effectively when their content is somehow matched to their affect—when the word “does what it says.” With Trouble’s jarring layout and redaction of letters, Wool reflects the disturbance implied by the word itself.

Christopher Wool is open through May 11.

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Our Keys to Success: Nudity, Warhol, and Celebrities

POSTED BY , ON March 19, 2014, 0 COMMENTS


It’s Museum Blogs day, which seems like the perfect time to take a look back at our own blog and see what’s kept you—our loyal readers—coming back for more over the last 4+ years. And apparently, nudity has been the key.

Our most-read post tells the story of Rolla (pictured above) from last year’s blockbuster exhibition Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity and our second most-read post provides a closer look at a censored print of the god Apollo (and admittedly has a quite provocative title). Thankfully, that’s not all you’re interested in. You also like Warhol, celebrity look-alikes, and commonly asked questions. Click through for your reading pleasure and thanks for stopping by! We’ll do our best to keep the nudity coming, but leave us a comment and let us know what you’d like to read more about. We love special requests!

1. When the Corset Hits the Floor, July 12, 2013

2. Last Chance for Renaissance Porn, July 5, 2011

3. Institute vs. Institvte, April 27, 2012

4. Celebrity Doppelgängers, May 22, 2013

5. Andy Warhol Polaroid GIFs, August 6, 2013

Image Credit: Henri Gervex. Rolla, 1878. Musée d’Orsay, bequest of M. Béradi, 1926, LUX 1545.

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