O’Brien’s Art Emporium
Life Span: 1862-1871
Location: 51 State street
Handbook for Strangers & Tourists to the City of Chicago, 1869
O’BRIEN’S ART EMPORIUM. There is no city in the United States, which, to-day, in proportion to its age and population, can boast of so large a number, such hard working, and talented artists as that in the city of Chicago. It is also true, both as to quality and price, for the purchase of the numerous varieties of art which contribute to the pleasure and contentment of society. We have been convinced of this by an extended visit to O’Brien’s art emporium, at No. 51 State street, where we have always been received cordially, and permitted to revel at will among the exhaustless resources that it affords. Two observations have been especially prominent:
First. The ample room obtained in the new location, the enterprise that is characteristic of Chicago, and the experience and excellent judgment employed, have rendered this a depository of art which can not be surpassed on the continent. It is no longer necessary that our citizens should go to London, Paris, or New York to purchase any tiling that appertains to the arts, whether it be painting in oil or water colors; framing, of the latest and most elegant descriptions engravings, modern or ancient, rare old line or artists’ proofs; chromo-lithographs, the great popularizers of art, of every nation, school, and style photographs, in the highest finish of the art and in the largest variety materials for artists, aids to students, ornaments for home, or what not—we find that, at last, all these may be obtained in Chicago as surely and to better advantage than by sending or going to other cities for them.
Second. We find the resources for ornamentation and the beautifying of homes so great and varied; extending in character and price to all tastes and to all conditions of people; offering such irresistible charms as we ourselves never dreamed of. Any one who will take the pleasure—is no trouble—to examine the assortment at the Art Emporium will find that there is no occasion for going outside of it, or looking to other sources, for a supply of art matters in all forms and at all prices.
“Art Is truth, and art is religion, and its study and practice a daily work of pious duty,” says Thackeray. But it has other and yet more attractive charms than this moral view possesses. Art appeals at once to the mind and the heart, to the intellect and to the affections. Every good picture has a good story to tell; a variety of good pictures presents a variety of sensations and reflections, which form a constant and never failing, source of enjoyment. Who has not been made cheerful by the contemplation of a bright and happy scene ? Who has a good picture in his house that does not recur to it again and again, with renewed interest and enjoyment, and is not better and more contented for such contemplation? And modern art, with its improvements, has brought within the means of nearly every one the possession, not of pictures alone, but of a collection of pictures— all good and enjoyable. Show us the pictures that decorate a wall, and we will tell you of the tastes, the happiness, and the pleasures of the dwellers. If any one who reads this feels the necessity of demonstration to be convinced of the truth of it, let him visit Mr. O’Brien’s Art Emporium, and we venture to say, that he will not come away under a couple of hours, and when he does he will willingly admit all that we have said.
And there can be no doubt in the mind of any reasonable person, that, in every sense of the word, it pays to invest in pictures. Once convinced in this view of the matter, the practical people of the country will make the investment more largely than ever. It pays in the comfort and enjoyment which pictures bring. It pays in the advancement of taste and enlargement of culture. It pays in the satisfaction found in affording friends the hospitality of an elegant or cheerful home. And the humble home which is rich in its possession of bright and happy pictures, is more elegant to a refined person than the gaudy home that abounds in elegant and meretricious display. There is one picture “Purity” which is all that its name suggests pure in conception, in design, in execution, and delicately and artistically beautiful, which is worth more in its influence than thousands of dollars.
In the Art Emporium will be found a greater number and a wider selection of rare old line engravings than has ever before been exhibited in the West, and as complete and valuable a collection as has ever been made in America. The engravings of this collection represent every school, every nation, every age, and every prominent artist that the world has produced. The scope of subjects is almost illimitable, and includes a variety that can not fail to please the taste of every one who may desire to select.
Among the chromos are those of the English, American, French, German, and Italian schools. English chromos are seldom printed to produce an oil effect. They are intended to represent water-color paintings; and they are generally superior to their European rivals. There is a delicacy in their finish and tone that neither the Germans nor Italians attain. Yet all have their distinguishing merits. Teachers, decorate your schools. Pictures have an historical value, a refining influence, and a cheerful quality, which can not but be most beneficial to forming minds, Something appropriate will always be found at the Art Emporium.
Besides the paintings, engravings, and chromos that have been mentioned, there arc beautiful and artistic lithographs photographs stereoscopic views oil prints; enamel paintings; beautiful ornaments in Parian and Iceland Spar; drawing studies; church pictures; a variety of illuminations in Decalcomanie and Diaphonie a varied and full collection of artists’ materials. Particular attention is given to framing. It is not necessary that the frame should always be expensive, but it is necessary that it should be in good taste and thoroughly adapted to the picture for which it is intended. It is essential that there should always be an immense and varied stock, such as is constantly kept at the Art Emporium, from which to make selection. It is also advisable that the purchaser should listen to the advice of some practical and experienced framer, and it would be well to consult with Mr. O’Brien, who manufactures largely in all styles and varieties, and has done so for years.
Finally, let us impress upon the reader, that he will always be welcome to O’Brien’s Art Emporium, 51 State street, as a visitor, whether he desires to purchase or not^ and that, as a visitor, he will find an enjoyment that will fully repay him for the trouble he may take, In the enjoyment which it affords.