april 2007 A Self-Guide to the Collection What artists do with color and form, poets do with words and rhythm. In celebration of National Poetry Month, take a tour of the collection to see how visual and poetic images resonate. Gallery 218 Rinaldo and Armida in Her Garden (1742/45) by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo Torquato Tasso was a celebrated poet in Renaissance Italy best known for his epic mas- terpiece Jerusalem Liberated. The poem tells the tale of the brave crusader Rinaldo and his enchantment by the beautiful sorceress Armida. Tiepolo illustrated four scenes from the poem in a suite of paintings, all found in this gallery. In the work pictured here, Rinaldo is spellbound by Armida’s charms. In the crystal mirror she holds, he sees “Beauty and love beheld both in one seat.” Just beyond the garden’s gate lurk his fellow soldiers, who plan to wrest him from Armida’s bewitching gaze. Gallery 222 The Combat of Giaour and Hassan (1826) by Eugène Delacroix British poet Lord Byron’s dashing personality and exotic exploits captured the imagina- tion of Europe. The French artist Eugène Delacroix found in Byron’s narrative poems an extreme kind of expression that set his imagination on fire. In particular, Delacroix was moved by Byron’s vivid descriptions of the Greek struggle for independence from the Turks. In this painting, Delacroix illustrates the dramatic climax of Byron’s poem The Giaour. In a swirl of brilliant costume, animal energy, and human emotion, Delacroix de- picts the rage and violence of a heated skirmish between Christian and Turk in a manner that established him as a leader of the French Romantic movement. Gallery 235 Adam (modeled c. 1881) by Auguste Rodin Known to carry a copy of The Divine Comedy in his pocket, Auguste Rodin was a great fan of the Italian poet Dante. He based his famous Gates of Hell on Dante’s Inferno; the door’s tormented figures were sculpted in bold relief as if trying to escape the harrow- ing embrace of the underworld. To flank the doors, Rodin created life-sized sculptures of Adam and Eve, of which this work is a copy. The pair bears eternal witness to the doomed souls of others. The weight of their transgression weighs heavy on Adam, who turns his head and twists away from the hellish vision while acknowledging his guilt by pointing his right finger downward. Gallery 136 Untitled (1958) by Clyfford Still In the 1950s, New York became the epicenter of the avant-garde. Poets such as Frank O’Hara, John Ashbery, and Kenneth Koch banded together with Abstract Expressionist artists to form the New York School, producing poems and periodicals that conjoined word and image. Like the poets who focused on the elements of the written word in experimental form and rhythm, artists Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko, and Clyfford Still emphasized pure pigment, creating large canvases dominated by one uniform color or by a few closely related colors in a style known as Field Painting. Still’s work—with its stark and brutal paint surfaces—struck many as the most radical and unruly. To Still, they were extensions of his identity and records of his emotional life. Gallery 108 Bottle with Birds, Stylized Vegetal Decoration, and Inscriptions (Early 13th century), Iran Who knew that a bottle could bear such poetic merit? Persian lusterwares such as this vessel were often painted with poetry or everyday aphorisms. This work is intriguing, however, as it is inscribed in both Persian and Arabic, demonstrating the bilingual culture in which the object was created. Besides blessings of “glory and prosperity” and requests for protection of the owner of this bottle, one inscription reads: “…the nightingale sings in the tongue of the red rose, / Wine shines in red vessels,” suggesting that the bottle might have served as a container for wine. Gallery 273 Object (1936) by Claude Cahun A hairy eyeball, an outstretched hand, what can it mean? The Surrealists reacted against social convention and reason and sought in their works to unite the conscious and un- conscious realms of experience in “an absolute reality, a surreality.” Surrealist artists welcomed randomness and spontaneity in the creation of art objects, as they believed that unexpected juxtapositions would liberate the creative process and reveal new truths. One of the leaders of the Surrealist movement was poet André Breton, who believed that the subconscious was an untapped well of imagination. The juxtaposition of hands and eyes in Cahun’s Object recalls Luis Buñuel’s seminal film, Un chien andalou (An Andalusian Dog, 1929), which famously opens with a woman’s eye being slit by a razor. Gallery 161 Elaine (1874) by Toby Edward Rosenthal American expatriate Toby Rosenthal painted grand narrative pictures with historical, mythological, and romantic themes that gained him international fame. Perhaps his biggest hit was Elaine, a picture based on Alfred Tennyson’s Idylls of the King. In keeping with Tennyson’s epic poem about unrequited love, the painting depicts a grim boatman fer- rying the body of Elaine to Camelot, a love letter to Lancelot clutched to her chest. The work struck a chord with its viewers, creating a frenzy nationwide. In 1875, more than a thousand people a day lined up in front of a San Francisco art gallery to pay a 25-cent admission charge to view the picture. Before long “Elaine clubs” had sprung up and even an Elaine waltz was created. More Poetry at the Art Institute! Hear U.S. Poet Laureate Donald Hall read with U.K. Poet Laureate Andrew Motion in Fullerton Hall on May 7 at 6:00. This free event is cosponsored by the Poetry Foundation. Call (312) 787-7070 to reserve your space.