Letter from Chicago

By Laura A. Hobson

Photo by Angela Power

The pulse of the city was vibrant. Chicago, the Windy City, breezed with music and art downtown at the Art Institute’s exhibit of Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity as well as the three-day music festival called Lollapalooza, which attracted over 270,000 people from August 2 – 4. People of all ages, nationalities and walks of life filled the sidewalks to line up for these attractions as well as summer visitors to tony Magnificent Mile on Michigan Ave. and the attractive Lake Shore Drive winding along Lake Michigan.

Of special note was the internationally acclaimed art exhibit which combined impressionist paintings from all over the world with fashion and accessories from the nineteenth century. Highlights included In the Conservatory c. 1881 by Albert Bartholome from the Musee d’Orsay accompanied by a matching summer dress. Young Lady in 1866 by Edouard Manet appears courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Paris Street, Rainy Day 1877 by Gustave Caillebotte comes from the Art Institute of Chicago. The famous Millinery Shop is by Edward Degas done in 1879.

The last stop on the tour of Paris, New York and Chicago, the exhibit attracts 3,000 – 3,500 visitors per day from all over the world. According to director of public affairs Erin Hogan, this is one of the largest blockbuster exhibits the Art Institute has ever displayed. Organizers are the Art Institute of Chicago, Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. The show started in June 26 and has been extended to September 29, 2013.

When I was there the first weekend of August, I was impressed not only with the Art Institute’s vast collection of impressionist paintings, but also famous additions from the Metropolitan Museum and the Musee d’Orsay, never before seen in the United States. Combined with fashions and accessories from the mid-1860’s through the mid-1880’s as Paris became the style capital of the world, the exhibit dazzles even young children. My niece Angela Power, age 11, loved the exhibit and bought postcards to remember it.

The exhibit features 75 major figure paintings by Caillebotte, Degas, Manet, Monet, Renoir and Seurat, according to the AIC website. “In the second half of the 19th century, modern fashion industry was born. This groundbreaking exhibition explores the vital relationship between fashion and art during these pivotal years. Further enriching the display are fabrics and accessories – lace, silks, velvets and satins found in hats, parasols, gloves and shoes. Truly bringing the exhibition to life are vivid connections between the most up-to-minute fashions and painted transformations of the same styles.” A trip well worth taking. And there is plenty more to see in Chicago.

Outside the museum were visitors to Lollapalooza, complete with a 130 band mega-concert designed to fatten the city’s wallet by more than $4 million. The festival aimed to attract a wide demographic of people with an 88-year-old Ella Jenkins who entertained the crowd. Colorful outfits matched the adventurous music. In its ninth year as a destination festival in Grant Park, the event brings in a loyal crowd. Even a rain shower did not deter the most avid concert goer. Panhandlers spaced themselves along with the masses throughout the area.

Surrounding this scene was an international flavor with people in summer clothes from many countries talking in different languages. Police with orange vests actively manned the corners of the streets. A double decker bus took tourists through this area as ice cream vendors rode by on bicycles. Nearby are the New Music School, the Chicago Symphony Center, train stations for trips to the suburbs, Au Bon Pain, Fontana Restaurant, the Chicago Library, Russian Tea Time, Roosevelt University, Starbucks, Panda Express, where we ate as my sister-in-law Lili is Chinese. Food was tasty and fairly priced.

Other highlights to see are the tall Sears and Hancock Towers, Oak St. Park, one of the best beaches in Chicago with suntanned volleyball players, white caps and sailboats, and Chinatown, an authentic visit to Chinese stores and restaurants. Chicago is an architectural historian’s delight from Louis Sullivan’s buildings to the Robie House by Frank Lloyd Wright near the University of Chicago.

The rhythm of the Windy City was unmistakably in high gear.

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