The Art Institute of Chicago is always putting together exhibitions that I love, and Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity is the latest. Chicago is actually the last stop that this exhibition is making on its international tour (here till Sept. 29th), where the relationship between fashion and art from the mid 1860s to the mid 1880s is explored. There is actually a lot of potential for learning and it makes a great back to school activity for the kids.
The exhibit has over 75 masterpieces from Degas, Manet, Monet, Renoir, and Seurat among others. For me, it was the fashion that first got me hooked on art museum hopping when I was younger-- and I've heard the same from so many of my buddies.
In addition to the main exhibition, the museum has put together some interesting galleries that look at everything from Greek hairstyles to fashion in publishing. Make sure to stop in the beautiful Ryerson and Burnham Libraries and take a peek at the engravings that spurred most major shopping decisions at the time they were published.
If you are a teacher, homeschooler or a parent, this exhibit has a lot of lesson plan potential. One of the first things that came to mind was how women used colors and fashion to voice their opinions on politics in a time when they couldn't vote, creating trends, and then these avant-garde artists painted the fashion trends they saw. Another interesting topic was the way fashion was used to indicate status throughout history, and then recorded through art.
For older students the exhibit, Undressed: The Fashion of Privacy, gives us a lot of social issues to consider. The one that I thought was particularly interesting, and kids of all ages can relate to, was the changing ideas of childhood and motherhood that took place during this period-- and was captured on canvas. I was reminded of a book I read, Charles Dickens and the Street Children of London, and thought this exhibit was a great way to tie literature, art and social issues all together.
I'm working on the lesson plan now (drop me a note if you want an all ages guide) but its easy to pull a couple Cassatt prints to refer to, Dickens' own novels or even just learn about his own life, and then talk about the new laws protecting children that were established as well as the idea of establishing what society considers the current idea of childhood.
The AIC has educator resources that teachers, educators and families can take advantage of and I've always found the AIC to be very kid and family friendly.
If you prefer an evening out at the museum, there are a couple Dressed to the Nines events at the museum. Special event tickets are needed for each of these themed night viewings.
Have you been to a great exhibit or event lately?