Holiday travel

We spent last week in Chicago as sort of a pre-Christmas celebration.  The city is decorated all over the downtown area with lights, tinsel and figures.  The snow stayed out of the city while we visited and so we were able to be pedestrians, roaming up and down Michigan Avenue and the surrounding blocks to see how the Second City gets ready for the holiday.

Around the Wrigley Building there were displays of many festive items, brightly lit and crisp in the cold air.

The Great Tree, a fixture in the old Marshall Fields department store (now Macy’s) was a tall and shining as always, as were the windows on State Street celebrating decades of decorations by the historic business.

Even the train station was part of the show, with Union Station’s Great Hall void of seats in order to display multiple Christmas trees complete with presents.

The Cloud Gate in Millennium Park is surrounded by visitors in awe regardless of the season, warping your view of the city – and yourself – from all angles.  There are probably stores in town where you can purchase small tree ornaments shaped like this.  It’s becoming a symbol of Chicago as much as the Wrigley Building.

Chicagoans of all types are opportunistic about staying warm.  These guys were almost as big an attraction as the German Christmas festival going on beside their campfire.

One of our primary reasons for the trip was a return to the Art Institute since the last time we visited the whole of the Impressionist wing was being remodeled and we wanted to see the actual paintings.  It was a great experience – no print in a book or poster can do justice to the work of these French painters.  It’s almost surreal, to see in living color images that for so long live in the pages of books.

Water Lilies, Claude Monet

Water Lilies, Claude Monet

More about this painting here.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Two Sisters

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Two Sisters

More about this painting here.

Paul Signac, Les Andelys, Cote d'Aval

Paul Signac, Les Andelys, Cote d’Aval

More about this painting here.

Thomas Moran, Autumn Afternoon, The Wissahickon

Thomas Moran, Autumn Afternoon, The Wissahickon

Moran was not an Impressionist; traditionally he is classed as part of the Hudson River School although many of his paintings are of the American west based on his trips with various expeditions.  This one was hanging in the Art Institute but I believe it is on loan from the Terra Foundation for American Art.  In that regard, this was a wonderfully serendipity to find in the Institute.  This image doesn’t do justice to the details in the original painting, which is about 30×45″ in size.  Getting as close as you dare to the canvas you find each leaf has been painted individually on the trees, filling branches that are also visible.  Stand far enough away and it appears at a glance like a photograph, a realism the painters of the late 1800’s envied about photographs.  It’s amazing how the painter uses light and dark areas to give a sense of dimension to the composition, something modern photographers can learn from this 100+ year old painting.

All in all a very satisfying trip to the Windy City and a fun way to get into the Christmas spirit.  May you all have an equally joyous holiday!



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