Into The World There Came A Soul Called Ida Analysis Essay

Replete with symbolic references to the fleeting nature of time and beauty, Into the World There Came a Soul Called Ida offers a modern interpretation of the traditional vanitas theme. The model—a pretty young woman named Ida Rogers—studies her ravaged appearance in a hand mirror, holding a powder puff to her chest as if to conceal her aging body. The dramatic light renders her fleshy, mottled legs grotesque, while the looming darkness and the multiple perspectives used throughout the composition increase the sense of uneasiness projected by the painting. This work is a powerful reminder that the passage of time can be relentless and unforgiving.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Art Institute of Chicago, Paintings by George and Martin Baer and Ivan Le Lorraine Albright, July 23-October 11, 1931, no. cat.

Chicago, Increase Robinson Galleries, Annual Exhibition of the Chicago Society of Artists, 1931, received Gold Medal.

Art Institute of Chicago, 37th Annual Exhibition by Artists of Chicago and Vicinity, January 12-March 5, 1933, cat. no. 6 as The Lord in His Heaven Above and I in My Room Below.

Chicago Art Fair, Grant Park, July 1933.

Pittsburgh, Carnegie Institute, 1933.

White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., Old White Art Gallery at the Greenbrier Hotel, Ivan Le Lorraine Albright, July-August, 1935, cat. no. 2.

Chicago, Walden Book Shop Gallery, 1935.

Springfield Art League, Springfield Museum, Mass. Jan.-Feb. 1937.

New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, 1937 Annual Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting, November 20-December 12, 1937, cat. no. 61.

San Francisco, Ca., Golden Gate International Exposition, Department of Fine Arts, Contemporary Art,
[February 19-October 29], 1939, cat. United States 5.

New York, Museum of Modern Art, American Realists and Magic Realists, 1943, cat. no. 29.

New York, Associated American Artists Galleries, First Joint Exhibition: The Albright Twins, October 22-November 10, 1945, cat. no. 2.

Colorado Springs, Colo., Fine Arts Center, New Accessions – U.S.A., July 12-September 5, 1948, cat. no. 11, ill.

New York, Museum of Modern Art (organizer), exhibited in Paris, Musée National d’art Moderne, under 12 Peintres et sculpteurs Américains contemporains, April–June, 1953, as Venue au monde d’une creature du nom d’Ida, cat. 1; Kunsthaus Zürich, under Amerikanische Maler und Bildhauer der gegenwart, July 25–Aug. 30, 1953, p. 15, cat. 1, as Eine Seele kam zur Welt, Ida; Helsinki, Taidehalli, under Kaksitoista Nykyaikaista Amerikkalaista maalaria ja Kuvanveistäjää, Jan. 8–24, 1954, p. 10, cat. 1, as Sielu, Idaksi nimitetty, astui maa.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, The 151st Annual Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture, January 22-February 26, 1956, cat. no. 15.

Lake Forest College, Ill., A Century of American Painting, June 9-16, 1957.

Art Institute of Chicago, Ivan Albright Retrospective Exhibition, October 30-December 27, 1964; traveled to New York, the Whitney Museum, February 3-March 21, 1965.

Art Institute of Chicago, Works by Ivan L. Albright from the Collection, October 21-December 10, 1978.

Chicago, Richard L. Feigen & Co., Ivan Albright, September 9-October 15, 1988.

Kunst-und Austellungshalle der Bundesrepublic Deutschland, June 18-September 20, 1992.

Art Institute of Chicago, Ivan Albright, February 20-May 11, 1997, cat. no. 17; traveled to New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, June 10-September 7, 1997, as Ivan Albright: Magic Realist.

Kunsthalle de Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Munich, Germany, Realism in the Twentieth Century, June 1-September 2, 2001.

Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, IL, "Chicago Modern:, 1893 – 1945: Pursuit of the New," 17 July 2004 – 31 October 2004.


Publication History

“Albright’s Ida Wins Chicago Gold Medal,” The Art Digest, Dec. 15, 1931, p. 6, ill.

“Albright’s Aging ‘Ida’ Repeats Her 1931 Chicago Triumph in Springfield,” The Art Digest, Feb. 1, 1937, p. 12, ill.

“Lavender and Old Bottles,” Time, Nov. 24, 1941, p. 18.

Daniel Catton Rich, “Ivan Le Lorraine Albright Our Own Jeremiah,” Magazine of Art, Feb. 1943, pp. 49-51.

Frederick c. Othman, “Black Eye Artist Goes to Work on Dorian Gray Film,” Hollywood (UP), Nov. 30, 1943.

C.J. Bulliet, “Albright’s ‘Dorian Gray’ Hollywoodian in its Horror,” Chicago Daily News, July 28, 1945.

Jo Gibbs, “The Albright Twins—Decay, Charm, Confusion,” The Art Digest, Nov. 1, 1945, p. 12, ill.

“A Look at the Albrights,” Newsweek, Nov. 5, 1945, ill.

Harriet and Sidney Janis, “The Painting of Ivan Albright,” Art in America, Jan. 1946, pp. 43-49.

“Texture, The Neglected Element,” Design, March 1951, p. 24.

John I.H. Baur, “American Art After 25 Years: A Richer Diversity Than Ever Before,” The Art Digest, Nov. 1, 1951, pp. 15-18, ill. p. 17.

Dorothy Bridaham, “The Paintings of Ivan Albright,” Chicago, April 1954, pp. 20-41, ill. p. 24.

“12 Amerikanska Malere och skulporer pa Liljevalchs,” Konstrevy, 30, 1 (1954), p. 17, ill.

John I.H. Baur, New Art in America: 50 Painters of the 20th Century (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1957), pp. 198-202, ill. p. 198.

“More than a Portrait,” Time, July 22, 1957, p. 56.

WFMT Fine Arts Guide, Chicago, November, 1960, p. 67.

Edith Weigle, “The Genius of Ivan Albright, Chicago Tribune Magazine, Jan. 27, 1963.

Edward Barry, “Big Albright Exhibit—Tribute to a Chicagoan,” Chicago Tribune, Oct. 25, 1964, p. 111, ill.

“Growth and Death, Newsweek, Nov. 23, 1964, p. 105.

Robert Coates, “The Art Galleries: Chaos,” The New Yorker, Feb. 13, 1965, pp. 128-130.

John Canaday, “Meet Ivan Albright,” New York Times, Nov. 7, 1965.

Margarita Walker Dulac, “Ivan Albright: Mystic Realist,” American Artists, Jan. 1966, pp. 32-76, ill. p. 34.

El Mundo de los Museos, The Art Institute of Chicago, Editorial Codex, S.A. Madrid Spain, 1967, ill. p. 32.

Jan van der Marck, “Ivan Albright: More Than Meets the Eye,” Art in America, Nov./Dec. 1977, pp. 93-98.

Michael Croydon, Ivan Albright (New York: Abbeville Press, 1978), pp. 49-50, 199, 244, plates 6-8.

Alan G. Artner, “At 81, Ivan Albright Enjoy his Gift of Second Sight,” Chicago Tribune, Arts and fun Section, Oct. 22, 1978.

Paul Cummings, Artists in Their Own Words (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1979), pp. 48-63.

Fritz Neugass, “Ivan Le Lorrain Albright,” Das Kunstwerk, 1980, ill.

“Ivan Albright,” The New Renaissance, 4, 3, 14 (Spring 1981), pp. 31-40, ill. p. 34.

Mitchell Douglas Kahan, Subjective Currents in American Painting of the 1930s, Ph.D. Dissertation, City University of New York, 1983, ill. no. 34, pp. 100-101, 106.

Mahonri Sharp Young, “Other Regionalisms in American Painting,” Apollo, Nov. 1984, pp. 327-334, ill. p. 334.

Master Paintings in the Art Institute of Chicago (Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1991).

Helen O’Connor, A Mirror of the Soul: the Evolution of Consciousness as Expressed in Art, 1992.

Art Institute of Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago: Twentieth-Century Painting and Sculpture, selected by James N. Wood and Teri J. Edelstein (Art Institute of Chicago, 1996), p. 66, ill.

Judith A. Barter et al., "American Modernism at the Art Institute of Chicago, From World War I to 1955," (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2009), cat. 90.

"Paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago, Highlights of the Collection," (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2017) p. 120.

Ownership History

Ivan Albright, Chicago, 1930; given to the Art Institute, 1977.

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Social Construction of Gender



Ivan Albright, Into the World Came a Soul Called Ida (the Lord in His Heaven and I in my Room Below), 1929-30.

Vanity: 1. The quality or condition of being vain; excessive pride in one's appearance or accomplishments; conceit; 2. Lack of usefulness, worth, or effect; hollowness; futility; worthlessness. 3a. Something that is vain, futile, or worthless. b. Something about which one is vain or conceited. 4. A vanity case. 5. a dressing table (see)... (American Heritage Dictionary)

Excerpt from Susan S. Weininger, "Ivan Albright in Context," in Ivan Albright, organized by Courtney Graham Donnell, The Art Institute of Chicago, 1997: p. 61: Albright and the Vanitas Theme: The vanitas, or memento mori, theme --a moralizing reminder that life's pleasures are momentary and that death is inevitable -- originated in northern Europe in the late Middle Ages and continued to preoccupy painters into the eighteenth century. The subject allowed artists to indulge in seductive representations of these pleasures and then to subvert the seduction through various moralizing touches. The painter of a vanitas composition could draw upon a wide vocabulary of symbols, used alone or in a variety of combinations, to suggest the transience of the material world. These could include a beautiful woman regarding herself in a mirror; arrangements of fruit and/or flesh flowers (whose life spam, from bud to perfumed fullness to withered end, occurs in a matter of days); the butterfly (indicating the escape of the soul from the prison of the body); objects of earthly knowledge (books and scientific instruments); references to sinful behavior (musical instruments, liquor, playing cards, dice); luxury items; and a human skull or skeleton....

Albright's entire oeuvre can be viewed as a twentieth-century exploration of the vanitas in which he pondered the connection between the physical and spiritual and the relationship of growth and decay, time and space, the finite and the infinite. Among his most powerful statements of these theme is Into the World There Came a Soul Called Ida. A comparison of Ida and Portrait of Artist Hans Burgkmair and His Wife, Anna by Laux (Lucas) Furtenagel, a sixteenth-century German painter, provides instructive insights into the meaning of Albright's haunting composition. In the Renaissance painting, a man and a woman confront their skeletal reflections in a large mirror held by the woman. Her express --one of sadness and desperation-- is not dissimilar to that of Ida. Like Albright's unforgettable female character, Burgkmair's wife is dressed in a fairly revealing garment and wears no head covering, indicating a level of intimacy with the viewer. The paintings share a somber palette, the use of strong chiaroscuro, and a careful rendering of form and textures. In addition to his searing characterization of Ida, a woman fully aware of the passage of time and of the inevitability of loss, Albright included a number of allusions to the fleeting nature of matter. The vase with dying flowers, the money on the dressing-table top, and the comb and powder puff that Ida uses in vain to obliterate signs of her physical decline all reinforce the feeling of an inexorable and irreversible process at work. Furtenagel's painting assumes a theological framework in which the decay of matter is contrasted with the eternal life of the spirit in the hereafter. Albright's image, on the other hand, does not posit everlasting life. Its pathos is located in the purely human dilemna it depicts. In 1960 the artist explained his interest in death and decay by asserting their legitimacy: "In any part of life you find something either growing or disintegrating. /p. 62 All life is strong and powerful, even in the process of dissolution. For me, beauty is a word without real meaning. But strength and power --they're what I'm after." In the poignancy and silent fortitude of Ida, Albright realized an image whose resonance and impact meet the challenge he set for himself.

Hans Baldung Grien, Three Ages of Woman and Death (Allegory of Earthly Vanity), 1509-11.

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