The Art Institute of Chicago ranks as one of the greatest art museums in the world, thanks to a magnificent collection that includes, and extends way beyond, Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings, Asian art, photography and architectural drawings. While the Neoclassical facade of the main entrance does its best to look dignified, the numerous added-on wings can make it hard to find your way around. In 2009, the museum also opened its new Modern Wing, designed by “starchitect” Renzo Piano.
Most visitors head straight upstairs to the Impressionist works, which include a wall full of Monet’s Haystacks captured in various lights, next to Seurat’s immediately familiar Pointillist Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte. A handful of Post-Impressionist masterpieces by Van Gogh, Gauguin and Matisse are arrayed nearby. Beyond these masterworks, other highlights include the pitchfork-holding farmer of Grant Wood’s oft-parodied American Gothic, which he painted as a student at the Art Institute school, and sold to the museum for $300 in 1930; El Greco’s 1577 Assumption of the Virgin; Edward Hopper’s lonely Nighthawks; Pablo Picasso’s melancholy Old Guitarist, one of the definitive masterpieces of his Blue Period; a tortured, tuxedoed self-portrait that was Max Beckmann’s last Berlin painting before fleeing the Nazis; canvases by Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko; and several works by Georgia O’Keeffe, such as a 1926 depiction of New York’s Shelton Hotel, where she was living.