I visited Chicago recently, staying at a kicky, new hotel, PUBLIC Chicago. A new venture by hotelier Ian Schrager, PUBLIC was an experience for a low-maintenance type of traveler, with an adorable staff, modern decor, and impeccable service. Minimalist furnishings, sleek lines, muted colors, and soft lighting carried through from the lobby and registration desk to the updated famous Pump Room restaurant and into the serene sleeping rooms. I found it to be a lovely retreat in the heart of the city on a quiet street in Chicago's Gold Coast neighborhood.
The purpose for my stay was a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago. Enamored by the Modern Wing and the nearby Millennium Park, I started my journey with Matisse's monumental masterpiece, Bathers by a River. Completed in several stages between 1909 and 1917, the immense canvas began as one of three panels commissioned for the residence of a Moscow collector. After the collector decided not to purchase the original painting, Matisse reworked the canvas again in 1913, obliterating one figure and altering the remaining nudes into abstract forms. He reworked the canvas again in 1916 and 1917 to how it is seen today. Another Art Institute treasure is the recently re-installed America Windows by Marc Chagall (seen below). Completed in 1977, the windows commemorate the American Bicentennial in memory of the late Mayor Richard J. Daley.
No trip to the Art Institute is complete without a visit to the Thorne Miniature Rooms. Sixty-eight miniature rooms commissioned by Mrs. James Ward Thorne of Chicago were created between 1932 and 1940 according to her specifications and were painstakingly built to scale of one inch equal to one foot. The rooms offer a glimpse of European interiors from the late 13th century to the 1930s and American furnishings from the 17th century to the 1930s. A few of those rooms are now decked out for the holidays. The Holiday Thorne Rooms are on view now until January 7, 2012. Add shopping on Michigan Avenue and lunch at the historic Marshall Field's (now Macy's) Walnut Room and I'm in heaven!