Archive for the ‘Chicago’ Category

Incredible Craftsmanship in Glass, Silver and Wood   1 comment

Truly fine craftsmanship has the power to intrigue and inspire. It represents the best efforts of a gifted individual to reach heights of beauty and mystery that go well beyond the ordinary. I was fortunate enough to see so many such examples as I walked the galleries of the Art Institute of Chicago, some of which appear in my previous posts.  As a continuation, today I’ll present to you some of the inspiring pieces executed in glass, silver and wood.  The wonderful thing about these pieces is the realization that one can look at them time and time again, yet see something new in them each time.  As in the last post, I’ll let the images speak for themselves.

As we  enter the gallery our attention is attracted to this lovely Tiffany lamp, glowing in the dimmed light.

A closeup of the dragonfly pattern…

Nestled along a wall is a full-length window of stained glass, also by Tiffany.  It is approximately 9 feet in height…absolutely beautiful.

Detail of the lily portion of the window…a camera cannot fully do it justice.

Detail of the upper half of the window….

Around another corner is a grouping of spectacular sterling silver, from the studios of Tiffany and Co.

Placed along the walls of the gallery are many fine examples of 18th and 19th craftsmanship in wood from various cabinetmakers of the time.

And one more…

I hope you have enjoyed seeing some of what I experienced.  I for one am truly thankful that these beautiful pieces of fine artistry have been preserved and protected for our delight and the delight of future generations.  A museum such as this is one of our most important public assets because it showcases the best of human achievement and provides inspiration to those coming up through the ranks.  I know it inspires me every time I visit.

Enjoy your day!

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Real Eye Candy….Beautiful Jewelry at the Art Institute   Leave a comment

Thought I’d share some of the eye candy, in the form of jewelry, I had the good fortune to experience on my recent trip to Chicago’s wonderful Art Institute of Chicago Museum a few weeks ago.  Each piece is exquisite in its own right.  Each was behind glass of course, but I think you can still get the essence of the beauty of the craftsmanship, design and materials. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

The first item is ancient, from Egypt….a necklace incorporating rock crystal, gold, glass beads, shell, and mosaic glass.

Next is a Hellenistic age bracelet from Syria…..2nd century BC, utilizing gold, semi-precious stones and glass.

A finely crafted necklace of gold, garnet and emerald…Roman, 3rd century AD.

Cameo portraits of Tiberius….Roman, AD 14-37

Next, I wandered into the gallery of Spanish Renaissance  jewelry.  Below is a small gold crown made for a statue in the early 17th century.  Enameled gold, emeralds, diamonds and aquamarine gems adorn the intricate crown.

All manner of fabulous gold and gem creations awaited me….

A cross…its backside just as beautiful as the front.  Here is the front.

And here is the back.

More fantastic pieces…

One more piece from the Renaissance gallery, not jewelry, but also very beautiful.

And finally, a wonderful grouping from the American Decorative gallery…This necklace and earring set were made by the well known Chicago firm the Kalo Shop, circa 1905-14

It would certainly be hard to pick a favorite, wouldn’t it?

I am inspired by each and every one.

Next post, I’ll show you some of the beautiful Tiffany glass and silver that I encountered.

Enjoy your day.

A Chance Meeting with a Treasure…Chicago’s Former Public Library   Leave a comment

Sometimes you just luck out.  Sometimes the Force is with you and the universe aligns along with the path your footsteps are treading at that moment. Such was the case on the last afternoon of my visit to the Windy City, when I “stepped out” on Mr. FreshAir for a quick date with my camera and the spectacular architecture of the city.  Architectural elements hold such an attraction for me, I don’t know why exactly, but they do.  And I tend to get caught up in the looking and examining, which makes me a rather poor partner for a general stroll around the block….while everyone else is 50 paces around the next corner, there I am stopping to check out the intricacies of a delicate wrought iron gate or a particularly lovely carved acanthus leaf on a pilaster.  I suspect I’m somewhat of a pain to the normal walking partner.  But  my camera never complains….which is why he always gets to accompany me on these sorts of forays.  Besides, Mr. FreshAir had already done his share of saving my life several times over the past two days when he correctly assumed that I was looking up at an archway or perhaps a gargoyle, and  grabbed my arm to help project me through traffic before the lights changed.

So off I went, with Mr. FreshAir’s blessing, and with only about an hour to do my deeds before we had to grab some early dinner and then head over to the train to the airport.  My target this time was the Chicago Tribune Building, which I had scoped out on a walk (not my kind of walk, but everyone else’s kind of walk) the previous night when we trekked the mile and a half from our hotel down to Watertower Center.  As I made my way down Michigan Avenue, I spied a multitude of interesting candidates for future photo opportunities and of course I had a to record at least one or two of the beautiful blossoms I found along the way…

Well, OK…yeah, one more!

As I continued along my way, I stopped at an intersection to get my bearings and also to wait for the little white pedestrian guy on the crosswalk sign to light up, thereby signalling safety in crossing….as long as one is actually looking at said crosswalk sign of course. As for me, my attention was grabbed by the building across the street. Perhaps you can see why…

I crossed the street and immediately began to investigate.

A kind woman who was sitting on the steps saw my obvious delight and urged me to go inside, assuring me I would not be accosted by the law.  So I did. I think at that point it would have been worth a brush with the law in order to satisfy my curiosity about what was inside, but then again, I’m no fool.  Here’s what I saw upon making my entrance

Spectacular marble and mosaic work at every turn.  Through research, I have found that this is Carrera marble and the mosaics were executed by Tiffany studios.

Detail of mosaic work on the stairs.  Mother-of-pearl, colored stones, gold leaf and Favrile glass  (“Favrile glass is distinguished by brilliant or deeply toned colors, usually iridescent like the wings of certain American butterflies, the necks of pigeons and peacocks, the wing covers of various beetles.”) are some of the elements used in the mosaics.

I continued up the elaborate staircase to the second floor.  I was in la-la land with all of the decorative detail on the coffered ceilings and the shimmer of the sunlight as it hit the glass and shell in the mosaic work.

Imagine!  This was once the Chicago Public Library!

And then, at the top of the stairs I saw this…..

A chamber orchestra warming up under the largest Tiffany Glass dome I had ever seen, and later found out it is the largest Tiffany dome in the world. I certainly felt as if I were in a sacred area.

When the music of Mozart’s Symphony No. 26 (Eb major) began to lilt throughout the building I thought I was indeed in heaven.  It turns out that I had just happened in when the Chicago Chamber Orchestra was presenting a free concert, part of their Mostly Mozart in May series.  Oh how I wish Mr. FreshAir had been with me to hear it. He loves classical music.

I stayed to listen for as long as time would permit.

Originally built in 1897, can you believe that this magnificent building was almost demolished in the name of progress?  Yes, in the 1970’s when we lost so many architectural gems to the wrecking ball, this too came very close but was saved at the last moment.  With a new library building built elsewhere and dedicated in 1991, the old public library no longer held books but continued in its service to the public by becoming a showcase for the arts.  This concert was just one of the many free cultural activities that take place in this wonderful treasure of a building….now known as the Chicago Cultural Center.

I quietly took a few more shots as I parted ways with this gem….

The new …shot from within the old.

Sunlight streaming through the arch..

The fine detail on a bronze wall sconce. The sconces and chandeliers were made by the Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company of New York..

The play of sunlight on the stair landing..

I silently slipped out of the building and hightailed it back to the hotel to tell Mr. FreshAir what I had seen.  The Chicago Tribune building would have to wait until next time.

I hope you will have a chance meeting with something that inspires you this week!

To Motherhood   Leave a comment

One of the most vivid images I encountered at the Art Institute of Chicago museum actually fits quite well with today being Mother’s Day.

Perhaps you are well acquainted with the work of artist Mary Cassatt, and if not, she is definitely worth some investigation.  Having been born in 1844 into a fairly prosperous Pittsburgh family, it was certainly not her parents’ intent for her to make a career as an artist.  As you might imagine, in those times it was not quite considered a proper path for a young lady….or rather it was considered a more unusual path.  However, Mary was a very determined and independent soul and pursued her art and art training without much moral support from her family in the early part of her career.  She moved to Paris, where she felt most at home and where she could study the great pieces in the museums. She suffered the usual problems faced by many of the accomplished women artists of her time: difficulty in obtaining inclusion into the male dominated, but all important world of the Salon exhibits…and a general view at the time that womens’ artwork rarely equaled that of  their male counterparts.  Obtaining quality art training for women was also a thorny path at times.  Still she did not give up, but kept working. With her unusual talent, she did manage later on to gain entrance into the Salons,  and a friendship and working relationship (but not a romantic one by all indications )with Edgar Degas proved to be a catalyst for further career development and acclaim.  She traveled in and exhibited with the Independent circle of what we now call the Impressionists, and counted Monet, Berthe Morisot and others as her friends. Still, she stayed true to her own artistic vision and style.

Mary”s best known works are executed in oils, pastels, or through printmaking techniques. A major body of work, and perhaps her most famous, consists of portraying the world of women and children and the tender relationships between the two.  The piece of work that commanded my attention at the Art Institute of Chicago is one that is often reproduced, but like all the really great pieces of artwork, is really unreproducible.  I was struck by that obvious fact as I stood transfixed.  The piece truly seemed alive.  Although I did my best to photograph it, just like in all the textbook depictions, it defies being captured on film.  One just cannot capture the life of the paint itself and the three-dimensionality of the image. I have seen other Cassatts in other museums, but this one is a masterpiece…in composition, color and technique.  Here is my meager attempt to show you what it looks like….

Entitled “The Bath”, it was painted in 1892, executed in oil.

Below is a detail of the upper torsos of mother and child.  As I said, the palpable tenderness between woman and child, as well as the vivacity of the brushwork just cannot truly be captured.

A further detail of brushwork in the linens….

I hope at some point you will have the opportunity to see this work in person. It certainly captivated me!

Another group of feminine images I found during my museum visit, were the Figures From the Scarf Dance, done in what I would assume to be porcelain in Sevres, France. Although I only photographed two of them, as I remember there were at least two more.  Each of them stood approximately 14 to 16 inches in height and each had exquisite detail.  They date from 1901-1902, and were of course behind glass!  Very beautiful.  So much motion and grace in the figure below…

A closer look…

The second figure…..

And a closer look…..so much attention to detail, magnificent craftsmanship.

Whether these figures are soft-paste or hard-paste porcelain, I do not know.  Hard-paste perhaps, because of the date.  But I do know that Sevres porcelain was a favorite of the French King Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour!

And now….

A final look at a tender image of mother and child from long ago….a daguerreotype from about 1850, from the George Eastman House Collection.

Here’s to remembering all mothers…..past and present.

Have a great day.

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night..and some quick musings on Chicago   Leave a comment

Well!  I’m back from Chicago and sorting through 300 odd photos.  The Matisse exhibit was outstanding and chronicled a very prolific period of his career, showcasing everything from drawings, monotypes, oils and sculpture executed between the years  of 1913-1917.

Unfortunately, although the museum allows photographs in all other areas of the facility, it did not allow cameras to be used in the Matisse exhibit, so I will have to try to find some of the images for you from other sources.  But as I said, I took many other photos of various works in the museum and also some of the interesting things I saw around town.  Chicago is a wonderful city with eye candy at every turn….all you have to do is look for it.  With it being May, there was a profusion of tulips in all sorts of plantings throughout the downtown area…

And then of course, there’s the wonderful architecture!

But for tonight I must make this short.  It is a very dark and stormy night with severe weather moving through Northeast Ohio.  Our tornado sirens have sounded twice already and you can be sure we made a quick retreat to the basement.  More high winds are predicted later as well, so I will sign off and continue my Chicago story tomorrow or the next day.

I hope all of you have a safe and pleasant evening.