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Window on the West: Chicago and the Art of the New Frontier, 1890­1940


The Wild West comes to The Art Institute of Chicago this summer with the exhibition Window on the West: Chicago and the Art of the New Frontier, 1890­1940, which will be shown in the museum's Daylit Galleries of the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Building June 28­October 13, 2003. The exhibition will bring together 125 paintings, sculptures, decorative artworks, and drawings and prints on the American West by 19th- and 20th-century artists connected to Chicago. The exhibition will be shown only in Chicago.

It was during the two decades following the great fire of 1871 that the city of Chicago assumed its place as a center of the economic, technological, and artistic developments that characterized 20th-century America. Ambitious businessmen and industrialists and a hardworking population of laborers made the city into the agricultural, livestock, and railroad hub of the nation. Galvanized by the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago's economic leaders also became its most prominent art patrons, working together to establish the powerful network of cultural institutions that came to define this major American metropolis.

Less understood is the important role these colorful figures played in their support for artists who were drawn to subjects specifically concerned with the West, as well as the complex reasons for their attraction to the subject. Without such patrons as Charles Hutchinson, Martin Ryerson, Edward Ayer, Carter Harrison, Oscar Mayer, George Harding, and Lambert Tree-as well as institutions like the Art Institute, the Newberry Library, the Field Museum, the Union League Club, the Cliff Dwellers, and the Santa Fe Railway-art of the West would have found little national recognition at the turn of the century and thereafter.

Window on the West is the first exhibition to look at the art that came out of this fascinating mix of artists and patrons. A powerful group of artists is represented, with works ranging from the naturalistic sculpture of Cyrus Dallin, Edward Sawyer, Hermon Atkins MacNeil, and Frederic Remington (not to mention Remington's gorgeous, dramatic paintings); to the colorful experiments of the Taos and Santa Fe School; to the contributions of the Chicago Arts and Crafts movement; to the unique semi-abstract landscapes and still lifes of Georgia O'Keeffe and her fellow urban modernists. Drawing on the Art Institution's collection of American art-as well as from important regional private and public collections-the exhibition will examine the importance of Chicago patrons and collectors, and trace the ways in which class, ethnicity, and the city's notorious politics determined collecting habits of the period. Moreover, it will show how all of these, in turn, affected the ways artists of the period were able to open their own "window on the West."

Window on the West: Chicago and the Art of the New Frontier, 1890­1940 is organized by The Art Institute of Chicago and curated by Judith Barter, the Art Institute's Field-McCormick Curator of American Arts, Department of American Arts.

Window on the West: Chicago and the Art of the New Frontier, 1890­1940 is sponsored by The Elizabeth Morse Charitable Trust. Additional funding has been received from The Oscar G. and Elsa S. Mayer Family Foundation.


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