The third guardian lion at the Art Institute of Chicago

Another Guardian Lion‽

A pair of famous lions guard the entrance to the Art Institute of Chicago. Inside the museum resides another guardian lion. This unknown distant cousin comes from Cambodia. It currently sits guard at the entrance to one of the busiest galleries. Literally at the entrance. Not off to the side, but right in the middle of your path stands this 12th century lion.

Welcome to the Asian art gallery

His mouth is open—maybe to eat you, but also maybe to laugh at all your jokes.

He partly is scary—and partly comical.

Continuing my art museum sketch series, I was on the hunt for what to draw for my third sketch. (the first two sketches were based on van Gogh’s paintings).

The Art Institute of Chicago has a very important gallery, mostly due to its location. The Alsdorf galleries is a corridor connecting the museum’s main entrance to the new Modern Art wing entrance. Many many people walk through this connecting gallery. In 2018, the Art Institute took great care in redesigning this gallery specifically because of its strategic high-traffic location.

Floor map of Alsdorf Galleries in Art Institute of Chicago

Right at the entrance of this crucial gallery stands the Guardian Lion. Very proud. Very centered in the space. Very confronting. The lion told me that I had to sketch him. (video)

When a Cambodian Guardian Lion tells you sketch him, YOU DO.

This lion takes on so many personalities. From very gruesome. To your friendly, laughing lion.

Cartoon sketch #1 of Guardian Lion from Cambodia
Looks like a clown
Fun hair/mane
Texture in chest is like Mr. T’s gold chains
Goofy teeth
Cartoon sketch #2 of Guardian Lion from Cambodia
Cartoon sketch #3 of Guardian Lion from Cambodia
Like a drunken Lion King
Very round butt

Everything is a sculpture!

Sketch a Cambodian Guardian Lion for twenty minutes, then go outside. Everything around you will start to look like a sculpture—including piled-up snow on street curbs.

Just look at that volume! Look at the texture! A masterpiece!

Pile of snow that looks like a sculpture

Nose up close!

While surfing through all my silly Guardian Lion photos in Adobe Lightroom, this incredible detail was right under my nose.

nose detail of cambodian guardian lion at art institute of chicago.jpg

His nose really stood out while I was sketching him. It was so big and round. A lovely nose for a lovely lion.

Comparing the Cambodian Guardian Lion with Edward Kemeys bronze lion

When searching for guardian lion on the Art Institute’s website, the Guardian lion and the bronze lion show up next to each other. The looks really nice together!

Too bad the Cambodian lion is made of the delicate sandstone material. He would be quite handsome outside the museum, hanging out with his fellow guardian lions.

Actually, I’d love to see the Art Institute make little replicas of this guy. And then he can totally poke up over the shoulders of the lions for photos. “Hey guys! What’s up? Hahaha!”

The Art Institute does have a 3D program (or they used to). I just made a post on their Facebook Page. (Which I’m kinda surprised that they have that feature enabled on their Page)

My request:

Do you happen to have a 3D scan of your “Guardian Lion” from 12th century Cambodia? He’s currently on display in the Alsdorf Galleries (Gallery 142). #1997.713

I would so love to make a 3D printed model of this sculpture. He’d hang out with the Kemeys lions in the front of the museum.

Most likely, I’d imagine they don’t have a 3D model of him. But on the off chance that they do—I’ll be running to my local library to make a 3D printout.

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