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Chicago Art and Artists in the Archives of American Art

Art Institute of Chicago

Of all the Windy City art institutions, the Art Institute of Chicago looms largest. Founded just eight years after the Great Fire of 1871, it quickly became a dominant figure in the city’s cultural landscape. The School of the Art Institute has likewise been a major force. This 1965 newsletter from the papers of Whitney Halstead, a long-time professor at the school, points out that in the 1920s it was the largest art school in the world, and it has turned out legions of internationally-recognized artists since then. 

School of the Art Institute of Chicago newsletter, volume one, issue 2, 1965. Whitney B. Halstead papers, 1920-1982. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 18073

In addition to Halstead, the Archives owns the papers of prominent SAIC professors such as Kathleen Blackshear and Ray Yoshida. Halstead, Blackshear and Yoshida have all been noted as significant forces influencing the idiosyncratic artists who would later be known as the Chicago Imagists. Blackshear was known for teaching her students as much from the collections of the Art Institute as from materials held at the Field Museum of Natural History. This color coded chart found in her teaching notes shows her emphasis on materials outside of the Western canon.

School of the Art Institute of Chicago newsletter, volume one, issue 2, 1965
School of the Art Institute of Chicago newsletter,
volume one, issue 2, 1965.
Whitney B. Halstead papers, 1920-1982.
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 
Chart outlining art historical styles and events in the Americas and Europe, between 1926 and 1961?
Chart outlining art historical styles and events in the Americas and Europe,
between 1926 and 1961?. Kathleen Blackshear and Ethel Spears papers, 1920-1990.
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.