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Claire Zeisler papers, 1941-1992

Biographical Note

Claire Zeisler (1903-1991) was a fiber artist and art collector active in Chicago, Illinois.
Zeisler was born Claire Block in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1903. She studied at Columbia College Chicago but left to marry Harold Florsheim in 1921. The couple divorced in 1943 and she married Ernest Zeisler in 1946.
For much of her early life, Claire concentrated her interest in art on collecting. Throughout the 1930s, she acquired paintings by European modern artists such as Paul Klee, Joan MirĂ³, and Pablo Picasso. Later, she collected paintings by American artists such as Franz Kline and Robert Rauschenberg. She expanded her collection to include textile works and baskets by Native Americans, and African sculpture among others.
After her divorce, she returned to the study of art at the Chicago Institute of Design and the Illinois Institute of Technology. She studied under Bea Swartchild who inspired a love for weaving. Zeisler's first works used traditional loom techniques but later she focused on knotting and braiding. She innovated free-falling fiber sculpture and her works helped push fiber art from craft to a fine art.