early 1900's art scene
early 1900's art scene
Posted by: kategray ()
Date: January 04, 2012 01:17PM

I'm writing a short story - trying to figure out where a dilettante (that is to say, independently wealthy) artist would have chosen to live during the 1905-1910 period in Chicago.
If anyone has an answer for that, I'd be eternally grateful! Any other info about the art scene and/or high society at that time would be bonus, even if you can only direct me to a book or two. The person I have doing my artwork for this lives right outside the city, so he's eagerly awaiting my research in order for him to start sketching....

Re: early 1900's art scene
Posted by: HOLTANEK ()
Date: January 04, 2012 01:56PM

here was an "artists colony" on 57th st. east of Washington Park. The storefronts where artists congregated were left over from the 1893 Columbia Exposition (Worlds Fair) and were the "center" of the author/artist community. Writers such as James Farrell wrote of this area alot in his "Washington Park/Oneill pentalogy novels. I'm sure theres links to this colony online.

Re: early 1900's art scene
Posted by: Elaine W ()
Date: January 04, 2012 07:26PM

You might want to look at biographical information on actual artists of that period. Two names that come to mind are the sculptor Lorado Taft (1860-1936), who lived in Hyde Park, and the architect Howard van Doren Shaw (1869-1926), who I think lived in Hyde Park briefly as a young married man and then moved to the north shore suburbs.
I'm not sure if the 57th street "artists colony" was in existence as early as 1900. Most of what I know about it is in the period 1930's-early 1960's. My parents were familiar with the area in the 1930's-1940's, but urban renewal effectively ended it by the late 1950's. The Columbian Exposition shops that used to be at Stony Island & 57th street were demolished around 1962.

Re: early 1900's art scene
Posted by: HOLTANEK ()
Date: January 04, 2012 08:14PM

Yeah, I wasnt sure if the 57th St. colony was around as early as 1900, I was mistaken. However, Hyde Park is just due south of this area and is known for artists as mentioned.

Re: early 1900's art scene
Posted by: Dunning1 ()
Date: January 05, 2012 03:36PM

I would certainly consider "Towertown," what the area around the Water Tower was called during that time frame. In addition to the Lambert Tree Studios by the old Medinah Temple, you also had the Dil Pickle Club, and a lot of the artsy, bohemian crowd lived in that area between the Water Tower and the Newberry Library.

Re: early 1900's art scene
Posted by: tomc ()
Date: December 12, 2012 02:06AM

Elaine W is right on target. Once you got past the artist's colony and walked across Stony Island, you are headed straight to the Musem of Science and Industry.That is very historic ground. Right up the street along Lake Park Ave. is the Hyde Park Historical Society that is situated in an old cable car trminal.One of my friends many years ago told me of the time that he got lucky. He happened by one of the store fronts and saw an artist painting from a female nude. No matter how much we delinquents tried, we never shared the same experience. I guess that it was all for the best as spinning tops was a better distraction at the time. Tom C (The Kid From Woodlawn).

Re: early 1900's art scene
Posted by: eskarp ()
Date: January 11, 2013 06:10PM

The 57th St. "artist's colony" survived a long time. I remember the original Fret Shop, which was in one of the store fronts on 57th, in 1961, just before all the structures were urban renewed out of existence. I was fascinated by the buildings which really were falling down. The Fret Shop sank a foot in one corner of the back room which was equipped with a 1920's kitchen range, among other things. I kept feeling that I had entered into a time machine that recalled the '93 Fair, an event which my elderly relatives were still talking about 60+ years later.

Re: early 1900's art scene
Posted by: nordsider ()
Date: January 26, 2013 10:24AM

A person you may also be interested in researching; Chicago's Bertha Palmer; she collected Impressionist paintings and displayed twenty-nine Monets and eleven Renoirs in her mansion on Lake Shore Drive.


Also the books: Silhouette in Diamonds by Ishbel Ross (published in 1960)

The Jewel of the Gold Coast: Mrs. Potter Palmer's Chicago by Sally Sexton Kalmbach

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 01/26/2013 11:38AM by nordsider.

Re: early 1900's art scene
Posted by: moderntimes ()
Date: January 26, 2013 01:26PM

Looking into Bertha Palmer is a good idea, Charles Hutchinson also. I know they both sponsored artists, which may have included living arrangements. My first thought is , if they were wealthy, they would not be in a 'colony' situation but something a little more refined.
"Art of Today, Chicago 1933" by J.Z. Jacobson is a great book, if you haven't seen it. No specifics of locales but interesting insights on Chicago.

Please post your article on forgottenchicago, good luck.

Re: early 1900's art scene
Posted by: querencia ()
Date: February 02, 2013 03:38AM

I can tell you that when we were in Hyde Park in the 1950's there were several small pagoda-type structures in the park---more like kiosks than buildings---I remember them as being down in the direction of the old Windermere Hotel---that were called "the art colony"---and it was generally known that they were left over from the World's Fair (Columbian Exposition).

Re: early 1900's art scene
Posted by: Paul Petraitis ()
Date: May 03, 2013 01:21PM

Anything arty woukld've been in Tower Town or Hyde Park I agree. Check out Rbt. Drury's "Dining In Chicago" from 1929 for a glimpse into that mileau from a '20's vantage point. More memories of the Fret Shop anybody? I heard it also did business in the ICRR underpass before moving to Harper Square.

Re: early 1900's art scene
Posted by: chas ()
Date: January 27, 2014 01:59AM

I'm a little late to the party here, but I just discovered this forum. I can contribute some info about the 57th St. Art Colony in the early 1900s. My great grandfather William Cowan and his second wife, Elizabeth van Osdel Cowan, had two different storefront shops in the 1500 block of 57th St. between 1910-1930. He was a wood turner and picture framer and she was a portrait painter. Her work was well-regarded enough to have been exhibited at the Art Institute in two of their annual Chicago artist shows.

The 1910 census shows them at 1506 E. 57th St. and on the 1920 and 1930 censuses, they were at 1545 E. 57th St. My dad's family stayed with them for a short time, and I have a sketch of the floor plan drawn by my uncle. The picture framing shop was in the front, there was one bedroom in the middle, and a kitchen and workbench in the back, plus a small loft above reached by a ladder. The "privy" was out back, and there was also a storage shed. At one point, there were eight people living there! My uncle records that the rent was $15 per month in 1924, and $25 in about 1930.

Other writers indicate that the 57th St. complex began its art colony existence as early as 1900. Check out this article from the Chicago Tribune in 1988:

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