A day in Chicago: Chapter 3 (A 3-part serial post)
The main exhibit (which, sadly, closed yesterday as I post this) was called "The Darker Side of Light: Arts of Privacy, 1850-1900." With themed sections bearing characteristically Victorian titles like “abjection,” it was, as the name implies, a melancholy lot. But the prints by such well know names as Manet, Corot, Lautrec, and Kollwitz, among others, were luscious. Comparing these somber genres with light-filled Impressionism and the lively bustle of streets and cafes, the catalogue describes the show this way: "The Darker Side of Light evokes shadowed interiors and private introspections to tell a far less familiar story of late nineteenth century art."
The few simple, sketch-like prints by Toulouse Lautrec reminded me of his genius. Like Matisse, an exhibition of his work—at the Art Institute many years ago—is among the most memorable I’ve seen. Käthe Kollwitz has long been a personal favorite. No one has expressed pain, loss, and suffering as deeply felt as she. The one at right is titled “Woman with Dead Child.” If I had to choose, I’d put Matisse on my wall any day, but I always keep my Kollwitz book handy as a reality check in moments of “quiet contemplation.”
If you haven’t been to the Smart, it also has a wonderful permanent collection and is reason enough to venture away from the epicenter of art in the loop for a change. Just before closing time, the young guard—probably a student—interrupted my reverie in front of their red above red Rothko to ask with some incredulity if I really liked it. When I assured her I did, she shook her head with finality and claimed that despite all the hours she’d spent there she “just didn’t see it.” I turned back to it thinking this was a particularly nice one.)
(If you missed the first two installments of this 3-part serial post, click on Chap. 1 or Chap. 2. Or scroll down.)