Explore Themes

  • Portraits

    Likenesses of people can be found throughout the history of art, back to the beginnings of human civilization. Portraits can serve any number of purposes: as a means of historical documentation, as a ceremonial object, as an indication of status, or as a way of revealing the inner essence of the subject. This theme is an exploration of the art of portraiture across media, style, and culture.

  • Recent Acquisitions

    Upon its founding in 1879, the Art Institute embarked on a mission to bring significant works of art to the visitors and citizens of Chicago. Now, over a century later, the museum remains committed to collecting. The Recent Acquisitions theme comprises works from across the collection that have been acquired in the last few years.

  • Art Institute Icons

    As an encyclopedic museum of art, the Art Institute has works from around the globe representing over 5,000 years of human artistic creation. In the Art Institute Icons theme, find iconic works of art that demonstrate the diversity and distinction of the museum’s holdings.

  • Artists in Chicago

    Chicago has been home for artists in a number of fields. Individuals such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Nickel, Angelo Testa, and Ed Paschke established their careers here, and new generations are continually building on our rich cultural legacy. The Artists in Chicago theme provides a selection of artists who have lived and/or worked in the city.

  • Children

    The depiction of children in art provides insight into the perception of childhood across time and culture.  The artworks featured in the Children theme offer a glimpse into what it means to be a child, from the sober portrayal of miniature adults in early American portraits to playful sketches of childhood games; from the intimacy of maternal relationships explored in the work of Cassatt to stark photographs of youth at the edge of innocence.

  • Silk Road

    Evoking fantasies of lush oases and distant crossroad settlements teeming with merchants, explorers, and sightseers, the Silk Road has become a metaphor for the harmonious exchange of culture among people from diverse societies, distant places, and different religions. Based on a 2006/07 exhibition of the same name, the objects in the Silk Road theme reveal international cross-fertilization and connections across time and space.

  • African American artists

    The Art Institute's collection of African American art provides a rich introduction to over 100 years of noted achievements in painting, sculpture, and printmaking. In this theme, find a sample of works dating from the Civil War era to the Harlem Renaissance and from the civil-rights struggles following World War II to the contemporary period.

  • Mythology

    Artists interpret myths and render them visible through portrayals of the heroic feats of mortals, the exploits of gods and goddesses, and the objects through which people can connect with their mythic origins. The artworks in the Mythology theme depict stories, characters, and fabled events from Western and non-Western traditions.

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