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Florence Arquin papers, 1923-1985

Biographical Note

Painter, photographer, educator, writer, and critic, Florence Arquin (1900-1974) was active in Chicago, Illinois. She was widely known for her expertise in the field of Latin American studies and had a close relationship with Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. From 1935 to 1939 she worked as administrator for the Federal Art Project in Illinois and joined the Art Institute of Chicago in 1939 to develop education programs aimed at secondary school students.
Florence Arquin was born in 1900 in New York City. She graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago where she studied art education. After, she undertook post graduate studies at the National University of Mexico. In the early 1940s Arquin traveled to Mexico to paint, where she developed friendships with Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. In 1943 a solo exhibition of her paintings at the Benjamin Franklin Library in Mexico City was highly praised by Rivera in the catalog introduction. Arquin's book Diego Rivera: The Shaping of an Artist, 1889-1921 about the artist's formative years, was published by the University of Oklahoma Press in 1971.
Arquin traveled extensively in South America, the United States, and Europe throughout her life. From 1945 to 1951 she traveled to Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador as Director of the Kodachrome Slide Project under the sponsorship of the Department of State. Arquin photographed aspects of life and culture and gave lectures at bi-national cultural institutions throughout those countries and in the United States. The project was part of an effort to provide educational agencies with visual aids in the field of Latin American studies.
Under another State Department grant, duplicates of Arquin's photographs were then made available for sale to institutions and individuals interested in the field of Latin American studies. The Metropolitan Museum of Art assumed responsibility for publicity, sale, and distribution of the slides from 1950 to 1955. Although few sales originated through the sales office of the Museum, Arquin managed to generate sales through her own efforts. In 1961 she applied for another grant to take control of the original slides and to add slides that she had taken on other visits to Latin America, Morocco, Spain, Portugal, and other European countries since then.
Florence Arquin died in 1974.