Peak Culture and Then Some

 

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On rainy days in Junior High, I often hung out in my social studies classroom. There was a variety of board games, but my favorite was Masterpiece.  The box of the game was rather like the box of Clue with a collection of hoity-toity personalities, but here contemplating art rather than murder.

In the game, there was a stack of cards with amounts to attach to another stack of cards that had paintings. The highest amount a painting could be worth was One Million Dollars and the least was nothing if it was a forgery. (Imagine getting a Van Gogh for a million dollars.) Throughout the game, you would bid on paintings from the gallery (the board) and other players. At the end of the game whoever had the most money (totaling the worth of the paintings) would win.

One of the great appeals of the game was examining the paintings in the set. Some were pretty and some were bizarre (my preferred type) and some were ugly. I got to know the names of some of the painters.

Then a decade or so later, I went to school in Deerfield, Illinois, part of Chicagoland. And while there, I visited the Art Institute of Chicago. Walking through the place I thought, “Hey, that painting was in Masterpiece.” “Hey, that painting was in Masterpiece, too!” And I found that all the paintings from Masterpiece were in this museum.

(Disclaimer – In doing my Wikipedia research I found that the original version of the game, the 1970 version, used paintings from the National Gallery in London. But the game’s creator, James Burck, a Chicago native, designed the game with paintings from the Art Institute of Chicago in mind. The 1976 version of the game used paintings from that museum. And that’s the edition I played as a kid.)

Recently I’ve been writing about my journey to become a Fully Cultured Person. I thought I had achieved Peak Culture by attending the San Francisco Opera.  But just a little over a week after that experience, I had an opportunity to visit again the Art Institute of Chicago. I realized to my amazement I could be even Peaker Cultured. These are some of the paintings I was able to revisit from the Masterpiece Game at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Is there any painting that has been parodied and used in commercials more than Grant Wood’s 1930 work, American Gothic? I think not.

Okay, maybe Edward Hopper’s 1942 painting, Nighthawks, has been parodied more and used in more commercials than American Gothic, but it’s one or the other. (Unless it’s Michelangelo’s God reaching out to Man, but that’s not at the Art Institute of Chicago or in the game Masterpiece.)

As a kid, this was my favorite painting in the game, Ivan Albright’s 1943 work, The Picture of Dorian Gray. I was a fan of horror films and this painting was made for a horror film, MGM’s 1945’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. You may be surprised to hear my wife is not as big a fan of this work as I am.

As a kid, I also loved Peter Blume’s 1948 work, The Rock, because it was so very strange.  Again, my wife is not so much a fan.

Georges Seurat’s 1884 work, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, was the basis of a musical, Sunday in the Park with George, so it’s got that going for it. And it’s gorgeous.  (Fans of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off may remember this as a painting Cameron studies. The museum is a part of “Ferris Bueller Tours” that are rather popular. As for me – don’t care for the film.)

Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s 1881 work, Two Sisters (On the Terrace) is more in line with what my wife, Mindy, favors, but I like it too.

Paris Street: Rainy Day, an 1877 work by Gustave Caillebotte, didn’t impress me in the game, but very much impressed me in person.

Rembrandt’s 1631 painting, Old Man with a Gold Chain, was the central image on the gameboard, giving it great cultural worth.

And there is so much more. There are even some pretty great paintings and sculptures that weren’t featured in the boardgame. Sadly, this all reminds me that I may never ever be truly fully cultured.

Published in Art
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  1. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    You’re doing pretty darned well, I say! National Gallery in London and MOMA are two of my favorite places, but it’s been many years since I visited. I’m lovin’ your journey, Eustace!

    • #1
  2. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    Many shared experiences! I loved that game when I was a teenager and it had an enduring effect on my knowledge of art.  My mother only got us games that had some educational value, much to our displeasure but she was right. The Rock was my favorite too!  I always paid a lot regardless of what it was worth because I liked it.  My friend forewarned me before I went to the Chicago Institute well into my 40’s that the paintings in there were used for Masterpiece and I delighted each time I found one.  I wish I hadn’t known so I could have had the joy of finding out how much I had learned from the game.

    • #2
  3. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    Now you need to visit the Alte Pinakothek in Munich and the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.

    • #3
  4. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Eustace C. Scrubb:

    • #4
  5. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    I have visited the Art Institute of Chicago a few times and have probably not seen every room.  It is grand.

    • #5
  6. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Eustace C. Scrubb: I realized to my amazement I could be even Peaker Cultured.

    This kind of great writing needs to be called out and celebrated.

     

    • #6
  7. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Randy Weivoda (View Comment):

    I have visited the Art Institute of Chicago a few times and have probably not seen every room. It is grand.

    The Armor Exhibit used to be just outside the cafeteria. Just the thing for adolescent boys.

    • #7
  8. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    I loved that game. You can buy “the original” on Amazon if you have nearly $200 to throw at it. I ordered a cheaper forgery knock off.

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  9. Steven Seward Member
    Steven Seward
    @StevenSeward

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    Now you need to visit the Alte Pinakothek in Munich and the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.

    Two of my favorites, even though I’ve been to neither.  They are both full of Rubens, Rembrandts, and Raphaels that I like, not to mention Durers.  If I ever visit Germany, I’m going there for sure.  My wife suggested recently that we make a trip  to see the Bayreuth Festival in 2025 (or was it 2026?) because they will be doing a rare performance of Wagner’s Rienzi.

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  10. Steven Seward Member
    Steven Seward
    @StevenSeward

    Eustace C. Scrubb:

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    Georges Seurat’s 1884 work, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, was the basis of a musical, Sunday in the Park with George, so it’s got that going for it. And it’s gorgeous. (Fans of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off may remember this as a painting Cameron studies. The museum is a part of “Ferris Bueller Tours” that are rather popular. As for me – don’t care for the film.)

     

    I used to visit the Art Institute of Chicago fairly often as a kid because my grandparents lived in Berwyn (Chicago suburb) and we visited them twice a year.  The Chicago Field Museum was a big destination, too.

    Believe it or not, I once used that painting of Sunday in the Park by George Seurat in the background of one of my portrait paintings.  The portrait was of Michael Milken’s mother, so I am not at liberty to share it online.  She had stitched a huge replica of the painting in needlepoint that hung on her living room wall.  It made the perfect background for her portrait.

    • #10
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