3 Artists And Their 3 Cities

3 Artists And Their 3 Cities

Joan Mitchell’S Chicago, Miguel Pou’S Ponce, Puerto Rico, And Leonardo Da Vinci’S Florence

Getting up close and personal with the art world’s biggest names is always a thrill. Museums worldwide provide easy access to priceless works by the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Joan Mitchell, and Miguel Pou. But to really understand these influential artists, it’s best to check out the cities that nurtured and inspired them. Lifelong devotees make pilgrimages to these destinations to learn more about each artist.

Joan Mitchell in her Vétheuil studio, 1983.
Joan Mitchell in her Vétheuil studio, 1983


The abstract expressionist painter and printmaker Joan Mitchell spent much of her career in France, but she was born and raised in Chicago. Fans of Mitchell, whose prints and paintings can be seen in major museums and collections across the U.S. and Europe, can visit her hometown to see some of her work and the places that inspired her.

Born in 1925, Mitchell lived on Chestnut Street in the Streeterville neighborhood and attended high school at Francis W. Parker School in Lincoln Park. She attended art classes at the Art Institute of Chicago, and spent some of her summers painting and making prints at Ox-Bow, an art colony operated by the Art Institute in Saugatuck, Mich. She earned her B.F.A. at the Art Institute in 1947, and her M.F.A. in 1950.

The Art Institute is displaying Mitchell’s City Landscape in gallery 291 through the end of January. With splashes of bright color, the work is indicative of the artist’s exuberant abstractions. The University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art has an impressive work by Mitchell (Untitled) in its collection as well.

Joan Mitchell’s Chicago


Known for his impressionistic style, which he often used to portray the everyday lives of his fellow Puerto Ricans, Miguel Pou is often considered to be one of the island’s great masters. Today, the artist has been recognized for preserving the culture and spirit of his homeland in the early 20th century.

Pou’s life was rooted in Ponce, the island’s second-largest city, where he was born in 1880. In 1910 he founded his art academy; students included the likes of Epifanio Irizarry, José Alicea, and Orlando Santiago Correa. Now there’s a major thoroughfare named after the artist, and he’s honored at the Park of the Illustrious Ponce Citizens.

An exterior view of Museo de Arte de Ponce displays the work of Miguel Pou.
An exterior view of Museo de Arte de Ponce displays the work of Miguel Pou

Religion figured into many of his works, as evidenced by La Virgen de Altagracia, which can be found in the city’s Church of Our Lady of Mercy.

The city’s Museo de la Música Puertorriqueña, which documents the development of Puerto Rican music, is the home of Pou’s History of Music in Ponce, and the artist’s works can also be found at the Museo de Arte de Ponce and the Ponce Cathedral. Visitors can take Pou-themed walking tours of the city with Isla Caribe, a tour company. Stops include the artist’s old house at No. 58 Calle Salud.

Miguel Pou’s Ponce


Leonardo da Vinci, the High Renaissance visionary widely considered to be one of the greatest painters of all time, remains ubiquitous through his best known works, including the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper.

Having grown up an hour outside of Florence, da Vinci moved to the Tuscan capital to study at the age of 15, in 1467. He started working in the studio of Verrocchio, the leading painter of his day. By 17, da Vinci was made an apprentice, and learned technical skills, including drawing and metalwork.

In 1478, da Vinci received his first commission, to paint a new altarpiece for the Chapel of St. Bernard in the Palazzo Vecchio, the town hall. Some believe that da Vinci’s The Battle of Anghiari, a lost masterpiece, lies hidden in the Palazzo Vecchio behind one of its Giorgio Vasari frescoes.

The famed Uffizi Gallery in Florence features many gems by Leonardo da Vinci
The famed Uffizi Gallery in Florence features many gems by Leonardo da Vinci.

Any art lover visiting Florence must visit the city’s most renowned museum, the Uffizi Gallery. Hall 15 is one of the Uffizi’s most incredible due to its display of works by a young da Vinci. These paintings—including Annunciation and The Adoration of the Magi—were all completed before 1482, the year the artist left Florence to paint for Duke Ludovico il Moro in Milan. Be sure to explore the museum’s exterior on the Piazzale degli Uffizi, where a statue of da Vinci by neoclassical sculptor Luigi Pampaloni is surrounded by all those who made Tuscany great, including Galileo and Dante.

After working in Milan and Venice, da Vinci returned to Florence in 1500, where he stayed at the Annunziata di Firenze, a Catholic church dating back to the 1200s. There he drew The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and Saint John the Baptist, works that drew great fanfare. One can visit the church, which sits on an elegant square, and explore its landmark Late Renaissance frescoes.

In 1504, da Vinci served on the committee that decided where to place Michelangelo’s David. By 1506, da Vinci left Florence for Milan, never to return. Florence’s Museum of Leonardo da Vinci thrills visitors with life-size models of the artist’s ideas and inventions. It’s impossible not to be astounded by the master’s creativity when looking at intricate etchings and wood carvings.

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