Valentine's Day can be quite the polarizing "holiday," but whether your box of candy hearts is half full or half empty, there's an artwork somewhere in the museum's collection that comes from a similar point of view. We asked our blog contributors to pick the work that best exemplified the emotions they associate with this day. Add your own in the comments!
As an angsty teen visiting the Art Institute years and years ago, I sat in front of the Chagall's America Windows back when they overlooked McKinlock Court and thought about how I was in the exact spot where Ferris Bueller kissed Sloane. I wanted to be Ferris but I was definitely more of a Cameron. I didn't mock authority figures, steal vintage sports cars, or have a girlfriend who affected a British accent for fun and somehow looked hot in culottes. In recent years, though, the Fight Club theory of Ferris Bueller's Day Off has surfaced, wherein we view Ferris as a figment of Cameron's imagination, a freewheeling id who is everything that Cameron, the tightly-wound diamond-forming superego, is not. In the end, Cameron faces his fears and no longer needs his imaginary cool friend. This is the lesson I'm taking for Valentine's Day. All you other Camerons out there should do the same. Destroy the Ferrari, go kiss your own Sloane. You know the line: life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.
My pick is Berthe Morisot's Woman at Her Toilette. One of several works by the artist depicting women in various stages of getting ready, this painting is not explicitly about love. But, it never fails to make me think of my beautiful wife, Shari, who bears a strong resemblance to the woman in the painting. Years ago, probably when we were still dating, I gave her a postcard of this image for Valentine's Day. At the risk of being unoriginal, I'm going to use it again now. Happy Valentine's Day, Shari-girl. I love you.
As Romeo and Juliet or almost any character from a soap opera can attest to, there's almost nothing sadder than star-crossed lovers and the notion that no matter how much you love someone, external forces can conspire to keep you apart. The woman in the painting above laments the outcome of another ill-fated couple, Heloise and Abelard. This 12th century student and teacher had an illicit affair much to the consternation of Heloise's uncle. As the result of a misunderstanding, the uncle ordered Abelard castrated (!!) and the two lovers were separated and lived out the rest of their lives in the seminary, she as a nun and he as a monk. Nonetheless, they communicated via letters, the text of which can be seen on the pages in the painting. The woman shown has a wistful look on her face as if she's also experiencing some sort of love-related angst, further illustrating that the problems of single ladies are nothing new.
This preparatory study by Sir David Wilkie depicts a young woman covering the eyes of a man who, in the final painting, sits writing at his desk. His parted lips suggest both surprise and a response to the imperative title Guess My Name. Though little is known about the private life of Wilkie, he was not known to have found much luck in love. The subject for this piece may be informed by such disappointment. According to Allan Cunningham, the painter’s friend and biographer, the young woman asks the man to guess her name using a disguised voice. Cunningham writes, “The heroine of this picture, as the painter himself informed me, had the mortification to hear the man she loved pronounce another name than her own.” Not all contemporary audiences seemed aware of this unfortunate outcome, however. Fellow painter C.R. Leslie imagined happiness for the young woman “which will probably lead her to change her name.” Gross…
Taking Cues from 18th Century Painting to Add Zest to Your Valentine's Day:
1. Mountain goats—Forget candle-lit dinners: alpine is in. Add a scrappy herd of goats to your serene mountain picnic.
2. Color blocking—Dress your man in vibrant yet simple primary colors that will capture the attention of the goat herd while complimenting your own elegant look.
3. Grapes—Keep your skin looking great by loading up on the antioxidants in this delicious fruit.
4. Show some skin (but not too much)—Keep it classy but don't be afraid to wear something revealing. Wear it right and your date will be eating out of your hand.
5. Bring your kid (goats and children)—Conventional wisdom says to hire a babysitter on Valentine's, but keep it frugal by asking your goats to handle it for an evening.
3 hours 35 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago NOW ON VIEW—Provoke: Photography in Japan between Protest and Performance, 1960–1975
Provoke was the English-language title for a Japanese photo magazine of the late 1960s; the name also designates the group of photographers and writers who put that formative publication together. Their influence has grown so great that the “Provoke era” is now international shorthand for sixties counterculture in Japan. This generational uprising swelled from the massive unrest, and sheer cultural disorientation, that accompanied the country’s transformation from ruined empire to superpower after World War II.
This exhibition places the achievements of Provoke alongside those of protesters and protest collectives, who made riveting photobooks, films, and photographs throughout the same era, as well as artists and art collectives keenly interested in live performance and its relation to the mechanical image.
7 hours 8 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago NEW ACQUISITION—In the early decades of the sixteenth century, Antwerp was a great center of commerce, finance, and luxury trade. The Flemish city attracted innovative painters like Quentin Massys, Jan Gossart, and Joos van Cleve working in a style that combined northern traditions with Italianate forms. Numerous other painters, whose work is only known under names of convenience, like the Master of the Lille Adoration, swelled the ranks of the Antwerp guild.
Saint Jerome in Penitence (by the Master of the Lille Adoration) is an ideal addition to our collection and can be seen alongside other exemplary paintings from Renaissance Antwerp—on view in Gallery 207.
1 day 6 hours ago The Art Institute of Chicago This bronze by Daniel Chester French is a reduced version of the full-size statue in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., which French worked on with the architect Henry Bacon. The Lincoln Memorial has remained a cherished destination at the National Mall since its dedication in 1922.
Find French's historic depiction of Lincoln in our galleries of American art.