The Art Institute travels back in time to the turn of the 20th century with its summer blockbuster exhibition, John Singer Sargent and Chicago’s Gilded Age.
John Singer Sargent. Lake O'Hara, 1916. Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Louise E. Bettens Fund.
Summer at the Art Institute means big-ticket names: Gauguin, Van Gogh and Magritte are just a few of the international masters showcased in recent exhibitions. This year, the museum trains its eye closer to home with John Singer Sargent and Chicago’s Gilded Age, a show exploring the master portraitist’s careerlong connection to the Windy City.
Though born in Florence to American parents, Sargent was a fixture of Chicago’s burgeoning contemporary art world, with works like the stunning London society portrait “Mrs. Hugh Hammersley” featured in over 20 local shows between 1888 and 1925. Explains Gilda and Henry Buchbinder assistant curator of American art Annelise K. Madsen, “By asking questions about when [Sargent’s] works traveled here, where they were exhibited and who owned them, we can gain a sense of the artist’s cultural presence in Chicago during his lifetime.”
John Singer Sargent. Street in Venice, 1882. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of the Avalon Foundation.
With approximately 100 objects, the show both captures a moment in the city’s artistic scene and shines a spotlight on Sargent’s enduring appeal.
“I find Sargent’s paintings to be incredibly appealing invitations to look closely,” says Madsen. “And to look slowly. ... At the level of technique, the exhibition affords ample opportunities to enjoy the act of painting itself.” July 1-Sept. 30, 111 S. Michigan Ave., 312.443.3600