|Ivan Albright. Into the World There Came a Soul Called Ida, 1929–30.|
Gift of Ivan Albright. © The Art Institute of Chicago.
Can you be the fan of an artist because of the title he gave to one of his paintings?
Ivan Albright is Chicago's most famous painter. Born in North Harvey, he studied at the School of the Art Institute. The Art Institute of Chicago holds more of his paintings than any other museum, though typically just three canvases are on display at any time.
One, his portrait of an aging woman sorrowfully contemplating her ravaged face in a mirror, "Into the World There Came a Soul Called Ida." Furrows of cellulite under harsh white light, the polar opposite of every romantic portrait ever painted. Albright is staking out his turf: decay and age, not in soft Rembrandt glow, but as nightmare, a realm that 70 years ago he had to himself*—predicting all the graphic shock art that came later.
He is certainly contemporary in how he leapt to other media. The second painting often on display is his most famous, "The Picture of Dorian Gray," a life-sized portrait of Oscar Wilde's debauchee, commissioned by MGM and featured in lurid Technicolor in the otherwise black-and-white 1945 film.
The door isn't actually in the exhibit—it's a few galleries over. Maybe it doesn't fit into the "Flesh" theme.
|Ivan Albright. Head of My Father, 1935/36.|
Mary and Earle Ludgin Collection.
© The Art Institute of Chicago.
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* Originally I prefaced this with the observation that I am not an art historian, but that got cut whittling this to size. What I should have done is gone with that flash of self-awareness and not ventured about Albright being in the forefront in this regard, because he wasn't, according to reader Tom Hohman, who writes:,
Albright certainly did not have this "realm...to himself". See Otto Dix, Max Beckmann and Weimar artists banned by Hitler. They were on the vanguard of the German New Objectivity Movement. Dix particularly explored the same subject as Albright but decades earlier.I regret the error, and leave this in, as opposed to just removing it, as a cautionary tale about letting your idle conjecture stray beyond the borders of your actual knowledge.