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On Vacation at the Art Institute

Recently, my little family took a trip to the big city of Chicago.  Easily one of our favorite places to visit, the kids and I have our own rituals each time we go.  We stay at the same hotel, swim at the same Ohio Street beach and have a couple of our favorite, required restaurant haunts.  

The Lions at the Art InstituteMy "crew", with the iconic lions, at the Art Institute

A stellar city for museums, Chicago has so much to offer!  Over the years we have done the Field Museum of Natural History, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Museum of Science and Industry on more than one occasion.  As the kids have gotten older, they absorb something different from each museum, each time we go.  My son, Ryan, is fifteen now, so it was time.  The Art Institute was finally in the "cross hairs".  My daughter, Olivia, is seventeen and has been lucky enough to go to the Art Institute several times with friends and on class trips, so she didn't quite understand why we were going to drag her very reluctant brother there, as she and I had both already been.  She was certain he would be a class-A stinker about the whole thing.  What I didn't want to point out to her was that teenagers were notoriously stinkers about trying almost everything new that wasn't cell phone or junk food-related, so this outing would clearly be no different.  

When we arrived at the front facade, I  charged them each with reporting back on which piece of art was their favorite, at the end of the visit.   What they selected really surprised me!

Olivia selected The Old Guitarist by Pablo Picasso.  When listening to the audio tour, the docent in my ear mentioned that when the Art Institute acquired this important piece, it really put the museum on the map, as a growing center for contemporary art.  

The Old Guitarist, Pablo Picasso c.1903

Ryan selected Monet's Stacks of Wheat.  He couldn't exactly tell me what he liked about this particular piece, but he did return to it several times.  What was interesting to me was that he picked something non-figural and highly impressionistic, he is usually more literal with his mathematical brain.  He is not familiar with Claude Monet, but he managed to seek out one of the most famous painters of all time and one of the most valuable paintings in the Museum's vast collection.   

Stacks of Wheat (Thaw, Sunset), Claude Monet c. 1890/1891

My favorite piece of the day was a mammoth work by Eduoard Vuillard.  The sheer scale of it (96" x 149")  drew me to it.  As lovely from a distance, as it is close up, I was surprised I hadn't noticed this piece on prior visits.  Vuillard had such a vision for this piece, it couldn't be contained on a smaller canvas, and I absolutely love the power of his conviction!  There were surely not many patrons or studios that could have accommodated a painting of that size, so clearly he was not concerned about mass-market appeal when he created it.  A total bevy of color and texture, this painting feels like you could walk right into it.  

Landscape:  Overlooking the Woods, Eduoard Vuillard, 1899

After all of this intense, artistic inspiration, the gang voted for a little swimming at the Ohio Street beach, complete with popsicles from a nearby ice cream stand.  

Ohio Street Beach, Downtown Chicago

If you have teenagers, you know that a simple popsicle won't curb their appetites for very long, so we made the walk down to Smith and Wollensky's for a special, on-vacation-style dinner.  Everyone ate their own weight in those amazing dinner rolls, and still managed to clean their plates!   Happy Summer to you all, from our family to yours!

  Dining Out On the Town, at Smith and Wollensky

Please share with us your favorite place to visit in the Chicago area, so we can check it out the next time we go!  

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