Lead me to check out the Driehaus Museum in downtown Chicago in the River North area last weekend. I came across the
exhibition by doing a Google search on French things to do in Chicago. What a gem this turned out to be! It turned out to be the highlight of my weekend. As most of you know, I am always on the lookout for ways to find the Paris is every place I go. Whether it’s a search for macarons in Wisconsin, or the Degas To Picasso exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum, I’m going to find it sooner or later. When I found out about this exhibition I knew I HAD to see it. These colorful posters have always been a draw for me. Where else but in Paris can they take advertising and turn it into a true form of art. Especially during this time period. What I find amazing is the fact that these pieces even exist considering being exposed to the elements. What a fabulous part of the Paris of the past!
This exhibit features the 50 of the works from the essential 5 artists of the time including:
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
They created these advertising posters that decorated Parisian streets during the Belle Epoque era stretching from 1875-1910. Taken from the vast collection of the Driehaus Collection of Fine and Decorative Arts, viewing these posters takes you to a time when print advertising was truly an art form on it’s own. Most are bright and colorful and feature everything from cigarette papers, to milk, to the Moulin Rouge and it’s cabaret dancers. They became highly collectable at the time (and still are). Many of us will recognize a few of these posters such as Le Chat Noir
To see all these posters up close was a treat that I cannot explain really.
Each of the 5 artist have their own gallery room on the the upper levels of the museum, which make viewing them a perfect experience. You are able to study each artists work carefully and can really see the difference in each one’s style. See how Steinlen featured his red haired daughter Colette in many of his work. Probably the most famous of these artists, Toulouse-Lautrec at times depicted performers in the caricature form to elevate their stage careers in his famous posters. It was great fun to read about each artist, the mediums they used, and their histories.
I was there on a Saturday and it was not crowded, so I was able to spend a great deal of time reading all the information cards. You could also rent an audio tour, but I decided against it on this trip.
I actually had never heard of the museum and I have taken many trips to Chicago and seen most of the major sights. I will say that touring this museum is a must do in Chicago if you are drawn to the Gilded Age in Chicago and its decorative features and architecture. Known as one of the grand residences (the largest at the time) in Chicago at the time and the home to banker Samuel Nickerson, he commissioned to have the residence built in the Gothic and Renaissance style popular in the day. In 1900 the residence was sold to Lucius G Fisher, President of the Union Bag And Paper Company (the Wisconsin connection).
Fast forward to 2003 when Chicago Philandrapist Richard H Driehaus founded the structure as a museum to showcase the architecture and furnishings along with his vast collection of Tiffany artwork and other pieces from the Driehaus Collection of Fine and Decorative Arts. You can also view some of his Tiffany stained glass windows at Navy Pier. Today, with the 5 year restoration process complete, the museum is a wonderful example of life in the residence during the late 19th century and early 20th century.
I would say, I was blown away when I entered the door. It was absolutely like stepping into a different era. There was so much to see and incredible detail to everything. Each room had a specific purpose at the time. I can only imagine the grand parties that took place at one time. My thought was, how can I have missed this in all my times visiting Chicago. Even if the exhibition were not going on, I would happily tour this place.
The first floor is where you can find the main areas of the house. First thing you see when you enter is the staircase! In the back on the first floor is a room with details of the history to read on the walls. The second and third floors featured the exhibition mixed in with more details about the residence, a gift shop, and other details about Driehaus himself. If you are there for the exhibition, do not forget to watch the series of movie shorts taken during the Worlds Fair in Paris. It is a joy to watch it!
This under the radar event should not be missed! If you are a crazy Francophile and love Paris as much as I do, the
Do you have a favorite thing you love to do in Chicago? Tell me about it.
As always all my opinions are honest and all my own. I did not receive compensation for this post