Never has a simple farmer gazed so deeply into my soul.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: as part of my 47th birthday celebration, my wife Anne and I drove from Indianapolis up to the Art Institute of Chicago and spent four hours with our eyes wide, jaws dropped, and cameras and phones at the ready (my camera battery actually ran out). We barely saw half the museum and will have to return someday for more.
Upon entering and paying, we headed directly toward the collective galleries of “Modern American Art 1900-1950” because they hold two of the Institute’s biggest names in classic paintings and, to be candid, I’m a sucker for art celebrities.
Grant Wood, American Gothic, 1930.
There it was, right in front of us, that iconic depiction of survivors in the face of the Depression. American Gothic was one of the many paintings I learned about in eighth grade art class, the first time anyone ever taught me the names of any artists or paintings beyond Mona Lisa. I have no idea whatever happened to my teacher Mr. Stickler, but ever since then I’ve owed him more than I realized at the time. It helped that I wasn’t one of the class malcontents sniffing rubber cement fumes during class.
In person you can stare for minutes at a time at the little details — the paint strokes, the color juxtapositions, and overlooked parts such as the brooch.
Even before we got to Grant Wood’s greatest hit, the museum’s Modern American section kicks off with another, giant-sized piece of Americana and subject of the occasional parody.
Edward Hopper, Nighthawks, 1942.
Closeup of those New Yorkers finding camaraderie in late-night desolation.
…and of course there was more, more, more. Please enjoy this highlight reel of numerous paintings that leaped out at us and demanded our attention.
Ivan Albright, Picture of Dorian Gray, 1943-44. This actually appeared on-screen in the 1945 film adaptation starring George Sanders.
While Dorian Gray hangs next to a doorway, flanking it on the other side is another Albright — That Which I Should Have Done I Did Not Do (The Door), 1931-41.
Finding life beyond his famously painted mother: James McNeill Whistler, Arrangement in Flesh Color and Brown; Portrait of Arthur Jerome Eddy, 1894.
Diego Rivera, The Weaver, 1936.
Slightly postdating the others here: Charles Sheeler, Western Industrial, 1953.
A slice of Harlem life in Jacob Lawrence’s The Wedding, 1948.
Jose Clemente Orozco, Zapata, 1930.
Reginald Marsh, Tattoo and Haircut, 1932.
A bit of sculpture in the mix, hanging from the ceiling: Isamu Noguchi, Miss Expanding Universe, 1932.
John Bradley Storrs, Ceres, 1928.
Joseph Stella, A Vision, 1925-26.
Elizabeth Sparhawk-Jones, The Shoe Shop, 1911-ish.
William Glackens, At Mouquin’s, 1905.
Fernand Lungren, The Cafe, 1882-84.
Peter Blume, The Rock, 1944-48 — commissioned by the owners of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater in Pennsylvania.
Charles Demuth, …And the Home of the Brave, 1931.
George Wesley Bellows, Love of Winter, 1914.
More to come!