The Цесаревич remarked to the Царица the other day that he’s never been to the Art Institute of Chicago. This was a surprise because even the Царевич has (but only to the Modern Wing, he reminded her, and then only briefly.
As an educator, the Царица gets in for free, and since the Цесаревич is almost 13 and the Царевич is a solid 10, they get in for free as well. The Czar, of course, pays a reduced admission as an Illinois resident, but that’s it. All four of us could go for $22.
In another bit of creativity, the Царица suggested we take the train in from the station near Muscovy, which has free parking on Sundays. She had some left over tickets, so that too cost us barely anything to do on a Sunday morning.
The short of it is, we spent very little to tour the Art Institute of Chicago in considerable detail. The Czar hasn’t been there himself in years, but not that much changed overall. The Цесаревич was desperate to see his favorite works for the first time: Hopper’s “Nighthawks,” Seurat’s ”Un Dimanche Après-Midi à l’Île de la Grande Jatte,” and Wood’s “American Gothic.” He had no idea how large the first two were in person, and how perfectly composited the last one is until he could see it in detail.
The Czar took the boys into Arms and Armor, which is always enlightening, although the collection is smaller than the Czar’s own collection. But they were impressed with the sheer antiquity of some of the art there—a Neolithic blade there was 5,000 years old: older than the Czar himself. And the Czar quizzed them about the anonymous guy who made a two-thousand-year-old amphora: what was his name? Who were his family? What did he eat that morning before making this? Did he have any idea that in two millennia, some people speaking an alien language in a foreign land he couldn’t imagine would still be wondering who he was? Did he make it thinking it would be used a couple times and pitched in the trash? Or that thousands of people would admire it in the far-off future?
They also discovered surrealism, and both boys were delighted over Magritte’s ” La Trahison des Images,” (visiting from Los Angeles) which they’d heard referenced many times about the pipe, but didn’t realize there was an actual painting behind this phrase.Perhaps the Czar’s favorite moment was taking the Царевич into the massive Impressionist wing, where the lad was blown away by the artwork. He’d certainly heard of Impressionism and had a vague… well, impression, really, of what it was. But seeing Monets and van Goghs and Renoirs all lined up next to each other overwhelmed him. He stared at the faces, discerned what the subjects were thinking, and appreciated how a few flecks of a brush become a tree in the distance half-covered in shadow. He’d never spent any time looking at Impressionist art before, and now he finds it his favorite school of art. His strongest response was seeing Degas’ sketchpad notes for his sculpture La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans, and realizing Degas used a sketchpad and charcoal just like he does…but this was the actual sketchpad sheet, right here, in front of him.
We spent hours there, and the Czar’s feet once again hurt something horribly. But there was plenty of time to ache and throb on the ride home while the lads continued to talk about all the neat things they saw, and the crazy bits of trivia the Czar knows about so much of the art they saw.
Божію Поспѣшествующею Милостію Мы, Дима Грозный Императоръ и Самодержецъ Всероссiйскiй, цѣсарь Московскiй. The Czar was born in the steppes of Russia in 1267, and was cheated out of total control of all Russia upon the death of Boris Mikhailovich, who replaced Alexander Yaroslav Nevsky in 1263. However, in 1283, our Czar was passed over due to a clerical error and the rule of all Russia went to his second cousin Daniil (Даниил Александрович), whom Czar still resents. As a half-hearted apology, the Czar was awarded control over Muscovy, inconveniently located 5,000 miles away just outside Chicago. He now spends his time seething about this and writing about other stuff that bothers him.