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Take a Virtual Tour of the Art Institute (As It Was in the Past)

Meredith Francis

It’s home to Grant Wood’s American Gothic, Georges Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte – 1884, and Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, to name a few. The Art Institute of Chicago might be closed right now, but there are still ways to enjoy one of the city’s cultural pillars. One documentary from WTTW’s archives will take you on a virtual tour of the museum as it was twenty years ago, exploring the timeless works that still inspire people today.

Treasures of the Art Institute, which is hosted by actor Brian Dennehy, who recently died at age 81, premiered in 2001. It describes the museum, which is one of the oldest in the country, as a “vital and evolving tabernacle of time travel,” examining everything from ancient art and Impressionism to Surrealism and contemporary art.

The documentary traces the history of the Art Institute, which was founded in 1879. One of its early champions was Bertha Palmer, a Chicago philanthropist and socialite. She, along with other wealthy Chicagoans, frequently visited Paris to visit Impressionist painters like Claude Monet and Edgar Degas, whose work wasn’t selling in Europe, and brought their art to America. The Art Institute still has a large holding of Impressionist art today.

On the virtual tour, you’ll learn about artists like Mary Cassat, Pablo Picasso, Paul Gauguin, and more. Virtually examine works by Asian and African artists, sculptures, furniture, textiles, a collection of armour, and contemporary photography. Hear from experts, curators, and art historians as they walk through the galleries There’s also a behind the scenes look at what it takes to curate a gallery or restore a painting.