No matter how many times I’ve been there, visiting the Art Institute of Chicago always feels like a new experience for me. As I change and evolve as an artist, the way I view the art changes.
Movements in art can all come down to this: What is the big idea an artist is playing with? For me, most recently, it’s about light. Light is most definitely not a new idea, but it’s my new idea. My latest obsession.
Impressionism could be summed up by the exploration of light. The invention of paint that didn’t have to be painstakingly hand made but came ready-made in a tube allowed artists to paint “in plein air” (French for “in the open air” — e.g., outdoors) for the first time. In plein air, the light is constantly changing. This is why Monet painted so many versions of his famed haystacks, seen in varying stages of the day, demonstrating the effect of shifting sunlight.
Below are two examples of Monet painting the same scene in different light.
On Wednesday, at the Art Institute of Chicago, I was blown away by the use of light throughout the history of art. From the beginning, in the Renaissance, artists were concerned with light — some famously so.
A prime example of a near single-minded obsession with light is reflected in the works of J.W.M. Turner, whose amazing skies have long transfixed me.
I have always been concerned with and aware of the use of light in art, but now that I have taken it to the next level in my own work, it’s jumping out at me in others’ work.
In the end, I encourage you in your own walk with art to ponder: What was the big idea an artist was exploring? Or, as I did this week, focus on your own observations just as I focused on light, and see what history’s greats had to say about it via their work. It’s a way to dive deeper into the art and expand yourself and your knowledge at the same time.
After writing this on Wednesday post-excursion, I’m off to soak my tired limbs in a hot bath. Museum gazing has a way of stimulating my mind while exhausting my body — with no complaints, I might add!