The First Art Newspaper on the Net Established in 1996 United States Friday, October 9, 2015

Miniature Rooms Create Magic at the Art Institute of Chicago
A miniature English cottage kitchen is one of many miniature rooms on display at the Thorne Miniature exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago. The 68 rooms, largely created and commissioned between 1933 and 1937 by Chicago socialite Narcissa Ward Thorne, showcase European, American and Asian interiors and furnishings from the 17th century through the 1930s. More recently, the rooms have served as inspiration for author Marianne Malone to write the newly released young readers fiction book "The Sixty-Eight Rooms." AP Photo/Jim Prisching.

By: Caryn Rousseau, Associated Press Writer

CHICAGO, IL (AP).- Third-grader Jillian Beckman and her grandmother Sally Beckman peered through the glass, looking at the miniature rooms at The Art Institute of Chicago before deciding that their favorite tiny pieces in the intricately crafted historic spaces were the beds.

"When you look at them, they're really realistic," 8-year-old Jillian said, after seeing the cwith her family while on spring break. "Even though they're small, it seems they're big. Like you can walk into the rooms."

The 68 rooms showcase European, American and Asian interiors and furnishings from the 17th century through the 1930s. They were largely created and commissioned between 1933 and 1937 by Chicago socialite Narcissa Ward Thorne (although she largely went by Mrs. James Ward Thorne).

The rooms, designed on a 1-inch to 1-foot scale, have titles like "English Great Room of the Late Tudor Period" and "Tennessee Entrance Hall." The family-friendly museum exhibit attracts many visitors with children.

More recently, the rooms have served as inspiration for author Marianne Malone, who used the collection as the setting for "The Sixty-Eight Rooms," a young readers' novel published in February by Random House. Malone's story follows sixth-graders Ruthie and Jack as they shrink so small they can explore the rooms themselves.

The book draws on Malone's childhood visits to the miniature rooms as well as visits she made with her daughters. As she researched the novel, Malone found herself visiting the rooms another dozen times, checking on details.

"There's sort of a gripping in your stomach sometimes when you see something that really moves you and I felt that way about the rooms as a kid," Malone said. "They're so much better than any dollhouse I've ever seen."

The floor in the exhibit space has a raised step, so children can climb for a glimpse into displays filled with dinner plates as big as thumbnails and sofas just inches long.

"It's something about being dominant over something that is so charming and diminutive," said Lindsay Mican Morgan, the exhibit's curator. "They can imagine and enjoy the style. I feel like kids, adults too, are able to take authorship and appreciate the style more this way."

It's not unusual to see three generations of a family visiting the rooms, said Malone, who divides her time between Urbana, Ill., and Washington.

Visiting the rooms with her granddaughter made the exhibit more exciting, said Sally Beckman.

"Just with their little eyes, what they see and what I see," said Beckman, of Toledo, Ohio. Her granddaughter's family was visiting from suburban Dallas.

Although she did some of the artwork, Thorne functioned as more of a funder and director of the project, Morgan said. Thorne would seek out top-of-the-line artists to execute each part of the rooms, such as rugs, wall paintings and ceiling carvings. Thorne donated the rooms to the museum before her death in 1966.

"Every little element of her life was devoted to the history of beautiful objects," Morgan said. "It was completely her passion, her whole life."

Thorne's vision teaches others to follow their own passions, Malone said.

"She could have just kept her little passion in a more accepted or conventional scale, but she didn't," Malone said. "She just really went for it."

While the rooms are filled with painstakingly chosen details, they are devoid of people. It was a deliberate choice on Thorne's part, Morgan said, because she didn't want to ruin the illusion and have the rooms look fake.

"In lieu of them, she would put objects in to clue you in that someone had just been there," Morgan said. For example, glasses may be on a desk with an open book, chairs are pulled out from under desks and toys are left on the floor.

Vases are on a fireplace and tiny tea cups sit with a tea pot on a side table. There even are objects in some of the drawers, and one of the clocks actually works.

More than 500 sketches were made for certain pieces of furniture, mirrors, clocks, harps and chandeliers.

Adding to the precision approach, Thorne and her team of designers lit rooms according to certain times of day — some rooms are lighter and others darker. In other rooms, viewers can see parts of trees outside windows or portions of adjoining rooms.

All of this allows for acting out a fantasy life in miniature, Malone said.

"This idea of looking into a world, I don't know what that is subliminally that captures people, but it's sure age-old," Malone said. "It set my imagination off."

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

The Art Institute of Chicago | The Art Institute of Chicago | Sally Beckman |

Today's News

April 9, 2010

Albertina Museum Presents Masterpieces from the Heyday of Austrian Watercolour Painting

Italian Group of Researchers Hopes to Find Caravaggio's Bones

Imperial Treasures Soar at Sotheby's Sales in Hong Kong

Miniature Rooms Create Magic at the Art Institute of Chicago

Miniature Portrait of George IV Makes 16 Times Estimate at Bonhams

Egypt's Zahi Hawass Urges States to Cooperate on Artifact Return

Seminal Work by Turkish Artist Nejad Melih Devrim to Be Offered at Sotheby's

Field Museum Announces New Dino Attractions This Summer

Research Findings from Guggenheim Archives Collections Now Available Online

Inspired by Heroines of Myth, Elisa Johns Presents New Work at Mike Weiss Gallery

Smithsonian Institution Announces New Jewelry Line with QVC

New Fossils May Fit in Gap between Apes and Humans

Transforming Tate Britain Application Submitted for Planning

Exhibition of Informel and Abstract Expressionism, 1946-1964 Opens at Museum Kunst Palast

Sotheby's to Sell the Collection of the Late Francis Egerton and Peter Maitland, Pioneers of the "Mallett Style"

Blue and White Porcelain Collection Assembled by the 'God' of Ceramics to Be Sold at Bonhams

New York Suit vs. Google Seeks Damages for Pictures, Art

9/11 Museum Exhibits Show NY Vigils, WTC Cleanup

Sydney Biennale Spotlights ASU Herberger Institute Scholars and Artists

Green Hill Center for North Carolina Art Holding an Online Auction Featuring the Glass Sculpture of Richard Ritter

Phillips de Pury's Much Anticipated Sale of the Estate of Mrs. Harry N. Abrams Breaks Records Across the Board

Most Popular Last Seven Days

1.- British archaeologist Nicholas Reeves aims to pinpoint legendary Queen Nefertiti's tomb

2.- Exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum explores the world of Indian textiles and fashion

3.- Rare Byzantine mosaic that depicts ancient streets and buildings in Egypt restored

4.- Sopranos actor/art collector Federico Castelluccio to pen book on Guercino discovery

5.- Exhibition at the McNay Art Museum presents more than 50 works created by Joan Miró

6.- Major monographic exhibition of works by Tamara de Lempicka on view in Verona

7.- Virginia Museum of Fine Arts acquires painting commissioned by King George III

8.- Tang Museum at Skidmore College receives 500 photographs from Jack Shear

9.- The Rijksmuseum and the Louvre to jointly buy rare Rembrandts for 160 mn euros

10.- Rail life: History of trains brought to life in a state-of-the art museum in Brussels

Related Stories

Art Institute Announces Major Long-Term Loan of Ancient Near Eastern Statuette

Art Institute Showcases Innovative Projects Linking Architecture and Design Practices

Art Institute of Chicago Launches French Impressionist Mobile App

Works by "New Topographics" Pioneer on View at the Art Institute

Jitish Kallat to Present Provocative Work of Art on Art Institute's Grand Staircase

Exhibition Celebrates Chicago Collectors' 50 Extraordinary Gifts

LeRoy and Janet Neiman Donate $1 Million to Establish Scholarship Fund at Ox-Bow

Art Institute Exhibition Reveals Facets of Louis Sullivan's Architecture

Art Institute of Chicago's Modern Wing Awarded Silver LEED Certification

Art Institute of Chicago Appoints New Chief Operating Officer

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
Editor & Publisher:Jose Villarreal - Consultant: Ignacio Villarreal Jr.
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez
Social Network Manager and Translator: Norma Cristina Pérez Ayala Cano

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site