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Published: November 7th 2018
Chicago History Museum
Exhibits of both fun and seriousness
At 8:15, we had an excellent lecture presentation on the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair
, called the Columbian Exhibition in honour of Columbus’ arrival in the new world. The Fair was a year late, which was forgivable, because a relatively few years before the Great Fire
had devastated the city in 1871. World renowned architects, including many trained in Chicago, designed the buildings for the Fair, attracted in part by the expanding innovation in architecture that arose from rebuilding after the Fire. Tall buildings (8 – 10 storeys), steel frames, electric lighting and the Otis elevator
were some of the technical developments that freed designers from classical European traditions. Even so, many of the Fair’s fourteen significant buildings were based on columns and pediments from Grecian history. The Fair was situated on reclaimed swamp land, and most of the structures were designed as and proved to be temporary. Only the Palace of Fine Arts
was later reinforced and still exists as the Museum of Science and Technology
, which we saw on our tour yesterday.
Our morning excursion was to the Chicago History Museum
. A docent toured us to several exhibits, providing much the same history as the lecturer had, with minor variations in “facts”. The display on the Fire included found china doll heads; it was
Moody Church 1864
Splendid presence on the street
eerie to think of the bodies burning away. We sat in the first “L” train car, which boasted a mahogany interior and wicker seats. Almost in defiance of the Great Depression
, Chicago in 1933 hosted the Century of Progress World’s Fair.
In the exhibit, two beautiful chrome models of fantastical buildings were outstanding. One was for a huge showroom by Chrysler
; it defies my imagination that it was actually built at the Fair!
During our free time, I looked at a photography exhibit for Vivian Maier
. She was little known in her lifetime, and her collection of 18,000 black and white negatives was almost discarded, but was bought by a Canadian. Now she is revered for her penetrating photos taken as she lived her life in Chicago. Many photos were of people taken unawares as they went about their business, seemingly deep in thought.
On the lighter side, I chuckled at the eclectic “The Secret Life of Objects”, taken from the drawers and cabinets of the Museum. A “newsie’s” (newsboy) wooden wagon for hauling newspapers was a rare artifact. A period ladies’ bike was donated in its old age, after decades of use. Police records were displayed, featuring many cases of stolen horses. A
Chicago Institute of Art
I would visit every day if I could!
contemporaneous cartoon of Kaiser Wilhelm was posted over a table with his cigarette case. All the exhibition notes were written from the perspective of the objects.
Just before lunch I popped across the road to photograph the unusual brick building with gold/brass decorations - the Moody Church
. Our tour yesterday touched on it, an historic and still active evangelical church.
Lunch was a nice sandwich buffet, in which there was just one sandwich I could eat – turkey and avocado with bacon and tomato, coincidentally the same as my breakfast. At least it tasted good. And the homemade-style craisin
cookies were deliciously spiced.
Our afternoon was spent at the huge and hugely important Art Institute of Chicago
. Joe, our prof from yesterday, was our guide initially. He took us to his favourite pieces, and, as a professor of art history, he effectively oriented us to the history and style of each piece. My thrills came when we were on our own, until closing at 5:00 if we chose. And I so chose.
After a restorative iced-tea, I headed to the Modern Galleries. From the moment I entered, my visual senses were engaged in some of the world’s most marvellous paintings:
Picasso, Miro, Warhol, Chagall, Jackson Pollock, and Lichtenstein. I took time to look at each individual's confident brushwork, and to stand both close and away for different perspectives. Lots of painters unknown to me were thrilling too. My mind was in an ecstasy of artistic innovation and excellence.
Time fled, and I wanted to find the Goya paintings, displayed in a different building. Unbelievably I found myself rushing through the Impressionist Galleries, stopping at least to soak in “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte
” by Seurat. To save time I asked a guard for directions, who actually escorted me to the Goya
paintings, plus he apologized that their most well-known one had been removed from the gallery two weeks previously. A woman overheard this exchange and asked if I knew Goya well, which I did not, although I did tell her what I knew. She had just started studying icons, and we excitedly exchanged our observations. Close now to closing time, I noticed a painting nearby and was delighted to correctly recognize a Caravaggio
. With only a moment for a Reubens
, I felt more than flooded with beautiful images, and in response to hints by the guards, I made my way to the grand
entrance to exit into the sunshine. Thoroughly distracted by the two-dimensional world, I had trouble crossing Michigan Avenue and navigating through the hustle bustle of three-dimensional bodies.
With a quick shower and change of clothes, I made it to the bus just as other stragglers were gathered for dinner at Petterino’s
. The set menu included salad, tender and deeply flavoured braised short rib (my choice), and mixed berries (for me). I went for Goose beer again, this time the Pilsner (better than the IPA).
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