June 13, 2017

Four Sisters and a Mother

Two Sisters, Valencia  (1909) by Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida
Art Institute of Chicago

This past Sunday had a lot going on here in Chicago. The annual Old Town Art Fair has been held every June for 70 years but GSL has an Ex on the Planning Committee who has created a little Beer & Wine Garden Drama for about 10 of those 70 years.  GSL decided that a scorching hot and muggy 94 degrees wasn't likely to help her find 'deep in cups' closure. An indoor air-conditioned Drama-free venue seemed a far better option to whet one's aesthetic 'Whistle'.

GSL boarded the Brown Line 'L' Train bound for the Loop and our wonderful Art Institute. As we snaked thru Old Town, GSL knelt for cover under window view as we passed over the Beer/Wine Garden.

The Art Institute of Chicago on Michigan Avenue sits right in front of Grant Park.
I remembered that this was the very last day to see a work of iconic American art that hasn't been in Chicago since the Old Town Art Fair began.

Upon arrival, I realized that my membership card had recently expired and had it renewed within a few short minutes.
This floral arrangement is among the best I've ever seen.

In fact, within 75 feet of each other for the first time ever were three of the most famous works of American Art. I'll bet you could guess one quite easily and the other two would come to mind in a short while.

But first, I always pay my respects to The Den's Kindred Spirit.

Paris Street, Rainy Day by Gustave Caillebotte

Then stop by to see the most beautiful painting in the collection.

Two Sisters on the Terrace by Renoir.

OK, ready for those three Icons of American Art?

American Gothic by Grant Wood.

This next one has inspired numerous imitations.

Nighthawks by Edward Hopper

This last one was here for only a short time as it's owned by the French State.

Whistler's Mother by James McNeill Whistler

I picked up a couple of books in the gift shop.
I had no idea Whistler's Mother was so well known internationally.  By coincidence, Den reader, Yvonne from Down Under, commented on a post I did on Norman Rockwell and Andy Warhol mentioning how Whistler's Mother was then on tour in Melbourne and only a couple hours prior to her comment, I was reading a fabulous novel by Josephine Tey where a central character was said to resemble Whistler's Mother. I didn't know then that she'd soon make her way to Chicago.

The small and combative James Abbott McNeill Whistler had feuds with Oscar Wilde, who satirized him in The Picture of Dorian Gray, and John Ruskin. Whistler's guiding principle was "Art for Art's Sake" and he wasn't bashful about ruffling feathers and even wrote a book titled The Art of Making Enemies.

Portrait of Whistler by
 William Merritt Chase circa 1885 resides in Boston's MFA.
Whistler and the entire Art World thought Chase lampooned Whistler's dandyish ways and preening self regard. Whistler and Chase remained 'frenemies' forever after.
GSL wonders how Whistler handled his Beer/Wine Garden Drama.


  1. I adore that museum and Paris Street is one of my favourite paintings.

    1. My Dear Naomi, they actually very generously offer free admission for military personnel but feel a duty to support Chicago's greatest Cultural Institution. Also, all Illinois residents can attend free on about 25 days spread throughout the year. The Daily lectures were once a habit when I had an office in the Loop and need to make an effort to get there more often.

  2. It is nice to know that Whistler's Mother has returned to Chicago, a place I've yet to visit. I missed it in SF many years ago when it came to the de Young but had the privilege of viewing it in Paris while touring the e Musée d'Orsay.

    One of these days I shall get myself to the AIC to see the other iconic paintings you feature in your post.

    1. My Dear CD,
      I think I've said this before but you finally do make your eagerly anticipated Chicago debut, you'll at least do GSL the High Honor of providing itinerary guidance.

  3. I saw both of the French paintings you showed here when they came to the Met as part of the fabulous exhibit on Impressionism and Fashion in 19th Century Paris. It was such a great show, one of my favorites ever. I did not know Whistler's Mother was owned outside of the U.S., who has it, the Louvre? On a totally unrelated side note "Tony Rome" was on TV a few weeks back and I thought of you. What a fun Sinatra movie--loved the 1967 Miami fashions and Jill St. John was such a hottie. She had good chemistry with Frank onscreen. xx

    1. My Dear Jill,
      Wbistler's Mum usually keeps house at Musee d'Orsee.
      Jill St John is one of the smoking hottest hotties to ever beat up a big screen. Sbe & Frank were an item off screen too. GSL also a big fan of Barbara Rush another co-star of Frank's in tbose otherwise low-forgettable Rat Pack 60s capers movies.
      One more thing Jilly-Pie; of all those stylish hotties from back in the day (Jill St J, Babs Rush, Honor Blackman, Julie Christie, Diana Rigg, et al) I don't recall any of them in cropped pants...time to move on???

  4. You were in arms' length of a Wood, A Hopper, THE Whistler, and a Renoir, all on a sunny day???!! Oh, my. Boggling mightily.

    What a lovely review of such a fabulous experience, and I'd have wrestled two bears at the Beer/Wine Garden, as well as braving the Sturm and Drang of six exes (not that I have a one to my name) to be at that exhibit. I've just GOT to start keeping up what's going on where again.

    Just mentioned your name at CD's lovely abode, re: the mourning embroidery. Hope all is well wichoo and yours, and that Spring is as fabulous up there as here. Still doors and windows open, most days, and I can smell the just-cut grass as I write.


    1. My Dear Rachel,
      The privilege of having such magnificent cultural institutions within walking distance is what drew me to Chicago nearly 30 years ago.
      I just love the smell of fresh cut grass and when visiting my mother in NC during the growing season always mount her John Deere and give her 6 acres a clip...she's nearly 80 and thinks nothing of doing it herself contrary to my entreaties otherwise.

    2. ...just love your recent post btw!

    3. Aw,, you sweet thing!! I just saw the "exception-to-the-Treehouse-Rule" inclusion in the CLUB, and am honored and humbled at the privilege AND the company. Many a tree-house have I been privy to, and many a day has been spent up one tree or another, not to exclude tops of garages, carports, potting sheds, chicken coops and workshops. Just follow the trail of comic books and KoolAid stains.

      And I, of course, the only GIRL allowed, and having one of the first plastic pitchers in our home kitchen (not the original KoolAid one---that came later when I had my own tree-climbing brigade), was the bringer-of-refreshment. And after a couple of times of boosting that brimming red brew up and over the side-bars of Mickey Allen's tall abode, I saw the light. The package of Strawberry, the sugar dry and safe in the pitcher-bottom, me up the ladder, and a hand-up of the garden hose, with shouts of "Now!" and "Stop" completing the mixology. I can't for the life of me remember how we handled the ice---probably not often, in fact, for those three precious aluminum trays with their delightful "whissshhhhkk" of the handles were mostly verboten for Summer afternoons and saved for the supper tea.

      Were those the days, or not? And though I had no official treehouse of my own, Daddy had built our house on the big corner lot which had been the neighborhood "Kid Zone" of his own youth, and the tallest tree on the lawn still supports three high-up mouldering planks, grayed and sagging and half-absorbed by the tree-limbs as they grew. I remember looking back through the back window of the car as we passed the house in his funeral procession, with the last glimpse I ever had of our family home those verdigrised planks of his boyhood adventures.

      And thank you for the above compliment, as well. I've just added a new resident to Paxton this week.



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  6. Recently introduced to your badinage by "Your Estella", I'm an instant fan. And as such, look forward to more of your fabled biopic. Specifically, I'm on the edge of my seat for more musings on the fabulous Estella. Please don't leave me hanging.

    1. Estella's a one woman hanging jury so you may need a call from the governor. and once you experience The Tone you'll beg for a hangman's noose.

      She's excellent with dogs and horses.

    2. I've experienced "The Tone". Blood curdling. But I've also witnessed her abilities as a dog whisperer, so I can't help but think she may be benevolent at heart. Either way, a word from a man with your experience couldn't hurt.