Wednesday, January 5, 2011

When friends discover minis: The Thorne rooms

My good friend L. was in Chicago which meant a visit to the Chicago Art Institute. She emailed me pictures of the miniature exhibit there. Feel like a museum tour?

The following photographs are by L.W.

Are you familiar with the work of Mrs. James Ward Thorne? I received the book called " Miniature Rooms, The Thorne Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago" about her miniature room boxes from Shale when she visited me last summer. They were made in the 1920s and 30's when period rooms were all the rage and are housed now at the Chicago Institute of Art. My friend L.W. visited their exhibit and sent me these photos.
They are thought of as "representations of the social history of art as it was understood in the first half of the twentieieth century" according to Bruce Boucher, Curator of Sculpture, Department of Medieval through Modern European Painting and Sculpture, Chicago Institute of Art.

 The most striking reaction I have to these photos of L.W.'s is how small the rooms are. The book says, "drawings and individual objects included with entries are reproduced to actual scale and correspond to items visible within the rooms they accompany" editor's note. But really, you don't fully comprehend the size looking at the pictures in the book. One of Mrs. Thorne's greatest achievements was attention to detail. These rooms were early examples of realism in miniature. I never realized what an achievement that was without seeing something to compare the scale of her rooms to. Keep in mind it is not the cleverness of the miniature but the whole of the design presented that matters. I keep saying (with all due respect to Marshall McLuann) the medium is NOT the message. It is not about minuteness. It is about totality.

This is "the California Room" and I love how it shows the Monterey look that was popular in the 20's and 30's. If I could have any style of house here in California it would be the Monterey revival style. I have a Colonial revival...

Doesn't the fireplace remind you of Oese's current work of her cabin?

Oese is a German artist pushing the envelope of these kinds of miniature representations. In her case, it is of current design.
Many conclusions are drawn from the miniature room box scenes made by Mrs. Thorne. One can only wonder what conclusions will be drawn from the rooms we preserve today.
Thank you L. for sharing your museum tour with me and my blogging buddies! C


Heather said...

Thanks for the pictures. I received the Thorne book from my sister for christmas. I would love to see these in person to see how really tiny they are.

I tried to see the Phoenix rooms last time I was there but that part of the museum was closed for renovation.


Kikka said...

Hi. Love Those Thorne Rooms! I have in one of my books a story of Mrs Thorne`s American Rooms, but not so many pictures. Thank you for shareing them with us! I my book I like the California Hallway picture because of it`s art; Picasso, Leger and so on..

Like Your Blogs background.. ;)

Amy's Miniatures And Smalls said...

Awesome... I have a memory from childhood being at the museum with my nose and mouth slobbering all over the glass trying to see all the tiny items and my mother pulling me away. I have collected a few post cards of the rooms there. I bet if I were to go back and visit I would still be slobbering all over the glass but this time a guard would have to pull me away. Lovely, lovely post. Enjoyed it so much. Thanks!

My Realitty said...

I would love to see them up close. I don't see myself heading to Chicago soon, though. C

shale said...

I want to go!!! Anyone up for a trip to the windy city?