A Self-Guide to the Collection

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A Self-Guide to the Collection Powered By Docstoc
					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.