Off the Tracks with Michele: Prints and Drawings department of the Art Institute of Chicago


A few weeks ago I took two friends to the Art Institute to see the Van Gough Bedrooms exhibit. (I’ll talk about that more another time!)

We were fortunate to have my friend Emily as a guide. Emily works in the Prints and Drawings department of the Art Institute. After seeing the “main attraction” Emily offered us a tour of her department. She lead us through several security doors to a large room of work tables and chairs. Did you know that you can make an appointment with the Prints and Drawings department to come to this inner sanctum to sketch or do research?? I had no idea! Art classes as well as individuals can come see their particular artist or area of interest. Only a tiny percentage of the works owned by the Art Institute are ever on exhibit. The rest are in storage, locked away for years at a time. From this main area we were lead into a “vault” of prints and etchings. We were really overwhelmed by the amount of art,as well as being so up close to these amazing images. Emily started pulling boxes from the shelves, and there were Picasso etchings, a Mary Cassatt color study, Degas. Then we happened upon an actual etching plate by Rembrandt! The really amazing thing was that my friend had just come back from a church retreat, and they had studied this very piece. Of the thousands of treasures in that vault, to happen upon that very piece – The Supper at Emmaus- was really an incredible coincidence. It made a great day even more memorable!



Rembrandt van Rijn Supper at Emmaus, 1654 Copper etching plate


Rembrandt van Rijn, “The Supper at Emmaus”, 1654, Etching, burin, and drypoint on ivory laid paper



Mary Cassatt “Young Mother”, 1888 Pastel on blue-gray wove paper (faded to tan), mounted on canvas, on a strainer


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