After my assignment I stopped off at the Art Institute of Chicago, which has free admission on Thursdays after 5. The place was crowded, so I allowed myself to bypass many of the more congested galleries, which were invariably the French Impressionist Greatest Hits rooms. What I was looking for was something that I needed to see at that moment.
My strategy for a museum is to enter a gallery, glance at all the masterworks begging for my attention, and feel which one, and only one, of them is calling me at that moment. This is the one painting, or sculpture, or artifact in the room I will lavish with my attention.
In this case, I was gravitating towards groupings of people. I am photographing people a lot lately, and I suppose I needed some advice on how to proceed. Every compositional problem you encounter, someone has solved it before you. You need not reinvent the wheel. In this case, I found some novel solutions in some 17th and 18th century works that I had never noticed before.
On the way, through the subway-platform-cum-art-gallery rooms, I had to pause at some Monets. No one I can think of handles light, particularly hard midday light in a landscape, better than Monet. How does he make it work? Then there's the compositional uniqueness of Degas. Even when he's not fawning over dancers, he comes up with a way of arranging the frame that appears explicitly photographic. It's no surprise that Degas was also an ardent photographer.