First, this is not a museum to try to do in a hurry. It has a large collection with many halls and many galleries, so consider making a day of it or at least a half a day visit or break visit into two hour increments over a few days. I think that we tried to tour the museum in two to three hours, which was not enough time.
The day we were there, the museum was busy but not crowded. The collection of French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works is impressive with many works by Van Gogh, Degas, Monet, Manet, Seurat (and other pointillists) with dashes of work by Gauguin, and other French artists, plus a few pieces by El Greco. They even have a few Toulouse-Lautrec pieces as well.
My benchmark for art museums is the Met in NYC, because it's the one I've visited first as a kid and then having re-visited it many times since. The Art Institute offers the same world class collection of well-known works, many that you've seen in print, but rarely in person.
My only complaint about the museum would be the combination of multiple galleries and confusing maps. But this is the same challenge that any large, multi-gallery, multi-floor and multi-wing art collection poses. The museum is large but manageable to visit fairly comfortably in a day. (But your feet will be tired.)
A small coffee /snack bar is tucked away near the modern art wing if you need a bit to eat and a place to sit, but it closes early.
The museum also is home to a collection of tiny / miniature rooms, the brain child of Mrs. James Ward Thorne (of Montgomery-Wards, Chicago). Constructed by master craftsmen according to Thorne's specifications, Miniature (tiny) Rooms range from late 13th century to 1930s European interiors and American furnishings from the 17th century to the 1930s as well. One could easily spend an hour in this collection admiring and studying the incredible detail in each re-constructed interior.
Highlight of this museum visit was spying John Lithgow strolling through a gallery as we were making our way out at closing time. I followed behind him for about 20 feet; when he stopped and turned around, I put out my hand to shake his saying how much I enjoyed his work. He graciously returned the gesture.
What a great way to end a lovely visit to a marvelous art museum.
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