Academy of Design
Life Span: 1870-1871
Location: Dearborn and Adams Streets
History of Chicago, A. T. Andreas, 1884
It was in 1866 that the real history of Art in Chicago began, with the inception of the Academy of Design. This organization secured its first impetus from a few professional artists, who desired to found an institution which should promote and foster taste for the fine arts, and encourage harmonious emulation among artists. Their first meetings were held in the Portland Block, late in the year 1866, and the first officers chosen were as follows : President, Sheldon J. Woodman; Vice-President, Charles Peck; Secretary, Walter Shirlaw. A constitution and by-laws were adopted, in which the aims of the Academy and its scheme of government were set forth. Its support was to be derived from monthly dues paid by artists. Free schools were instituted for instruction in drawing from life and from antique models. It was early determined to give an exhibition of such works in painting and sculpture as could be collected from artists and private individuals, and the following announcement of the intentions of the society was made by circular to the public:
The Chicago Academy of Design will give a literary, musical and dramatic festival at Crosby’s Opera House on Friday evening. May 3. 1867, and on Monday evening, May 13, will open, at its gallery in Jevne & Almini’s building, the first semi-annual exhibition of the Academy.
About thirty-live members were enrolled at this time, including some of the first artists in the city. The reception at the Opera House was very successful, but in the ten days that intervened before the exhibition public interest had flagged and the result was a pecuniary loss. Discordant elements were found to exist from its inception, and this society soon found its grave,
Chicago Tribune, September 17, 1870
The Chicago Academy of Design is an institution whose good influences in local art matters of pride, and congratulation with all our citizens. This circumstance is the more prominently brought before the public just now, when the new building, erected expressly for the academy, is approaching completion.
Academy of Design
The building—of white Athena stone, and 80 feet frontage—is located on Adams street, near the corner of State, and has all the advantages of the new centre which wealth and enterprise have given our city. Built for the exclusive use of the Academy of Design, it has been planned in the most approved style of an art building. The front elevation has five stories, the ground floor occupied by two large stores, and all the others by artists’ studios—large, commodious rooms, very different from the quarters which are usually associated with artists. The high success which the fine arts have attained in this city is well demonstrated by the circumstance that every one of these studios has been already bespoken by Chicago art artists, so that the institution, under the new order of things, will start off prosperously. The rooms have excellent light, and sealed walls instead of plaster. for the hanging of pictures.
Beside the studios, there is on the first floor above, occupying the whole length of the frontage, a handsome lecture-room, which is to be used for the art-lectures before the academy, and rented out for such respectable entertainment and companies as may be acceptable to the academy. Above this hall are the galleries, two of them connected together, and only two stories above ground. The larger of these is the off painting gallery, and the smaller; the water-color and statuary gallery, and it is intended to connect a third, so soon as the building in the west shall be erected. The galleries have a height of 34 feet, lighted from the top with smooth plate ground glass, which will cast a perfectly steady and somewhat subdued light upon the paintings. The walls are to be tinted, about half way up, with a delicate maroon, which from this point, will blend gradually into white at the top. At the academy receptions, and all other entertainments, the galleries, the halls, studios, and the lecture-room, are all to be thrown open.
Beside the studios, lecture halls, and art galleries, the academy has large school-rooms, where 250 casts will be placed, 250 of them—the Scammon collection—being of the best antiques. This school is to be absolutely free, will always be under the personal chartge of the best artists, and will work wonders for Chicago art.
One is impressed, in looking over this building, with the evidences of culture, elegance, and refinement, which the prosperous condition of the academy conveys. The whole building being under the control of the academy, it will always be known to be respectable in every way, and it will commend the support of the most intelligent and excellent society of the city. The academy requires about $10,000 to finish the building in the in the chaste and elegant manner which they propose. Nearly $5,000 of this sum have already been contributed, and we are confident that the academy will find no difficulty in securing the remainder. Pecuniary aid to the amount of $500 is requisite to obtain an honorary membership, $100 secures a fellowship, and $10 a yearly subscription—the latter only to be retained for a year or two. As the academy may rightly view an offer of membership in any one of these three grades an honor to the person to whom it is offered, no one of our citizens should hesitate a moment in accepting one or the other.
Sometime about the 1st of November the academy will give its opening reception, when the gallery will be fitted with pictures, not one of which has ever been exhibited in Chicago. The most prominent artists will be represented, Chicago society will be there, and the occasion will be a grand one.
Chicago Tribune, November 22, 1870
The Academy of Design.—The pictures in the Academy of Design were hung yesterday, and the public exhibition will take place this evening. There will probably be a jam. The managers wish the public to understand that those who have purchased tickets to the academy are invited to the reception. Carriages are to enter Adams street from State, and go away through Dearborn.
Chicago Tribune, November 24, 1870
THE ACADEMY OF DESIGN EXHIBITION.—The exhibition of the Academy of Design, which inaugurated their new and handsome edifice, on Tuesday evening, was unmistakably a popular success. The collection of paintings was remarkably good, as far as it went, although one can hardly help regretting that such great artists as Inness, Gifford, McEntes, Eastman, Johnson, Durand, Page, Edwin White, Whittredge, Bellows, Moran, and others, were unrepresented. There were some pictures which were so unquestionably bad that we were surprised to see them upon the walls. There were other pictures, again, like Healy’s “Peace-makers,” and Pine’s group, painted upon huge canvases, which should not have been admitted, not because they are bad of themselves, but because it is inevitable that smaller pictures must suffer by the side of them. But, on the other hand, there were real works of true art, like the architectural paintings by Neal, the landscapes of James Hart, Gay, Kensett, Church, and Coleman; the portraits of by Le Clear and Huntington, and the De Haas marine, which were a credit to the exhibition, and afford an admirable field for study.
Tuesday night was the popular success. The fashion of the city did itself the pleasure, and the gallery the distinguished honor, to come to the reception, arrayed in its greatest robes, and pregnant with extempore high art criticism of a harmless order. Fashion rushed and crushed, examined itself in detail, and the pictures in general, and had its toilettes, from postillions to shoe-strings, aired by the female members of the Jenkins family. That is is all very well of corse. There is so much art criticism pent up in the community that it is well to have a vent for it now and then, and, if art must be the camel to carry fashion for one night, it is a pleasant burden which art can bear with patience.
But now comes the serious work for the Academy. There is danger that the managers may be a little dazzled by their show, and relax for their efforts. This fashionable visitation may be accepted as an artistic fact instead of a mere incident of dress. They should remember that the same people will rush in the same full dress, next week, to the Opera House reception, and then let that gallery severely alone, as they will this. The labor now remains to be done, and no ordinary responsibility rests upon the shoulders of the managers.
They have the materials and the opportunities to accomplish a great work in the community, if they set themselves about it aright, and we hope at the very outset that they will not make the fatal mistake of running against the Opera House Gallery. There is room here for both, and each, working in its own sphere, can secure valuable results. The Opera House Gallery must, of course, be devoted to exhibition only, and, in this respect, the pictures already received for the opening next week promise one of the greatest exhibitions we have ever had here. The Academy is a more practical institution, and must make itself felt in its schools and its lectures as well as in pictures. It has for one of its main objects the encouragement and improvement of our own artists and its efforts should be earnestly directed that way, as well as in the education of the people, for there is at present no popular standard of art here. The bad pictures found quite as many admirers on Tuesday evening as the good ones. If there is one thing more than another that we would impress upon the managers, it is to keep these bad pictures off the walls. Art id not to be judged by its extent. One good picture in the Academy is of more value than a hundred commonplace ones. Make the schools of value to every art-student. Make the lectures of a popular character, and work without regard to other galleries. There is no danger of too many galleries, if they are properly conducted. We cannot have too many good pictures here, or have them too public. So conduct the gallery that it shall commend itself to the people at large, remembering that the Academy is pre-eminently an educator. Do not rest contented with the mere incident of a fashionable crush. These crushes never do anything for art, as may be seen in the fate of the National Academy. Honest, earnest work is what is now wanted; and, if the managers conscientiously attend to that work, they will not have any time to devote to other galleries.
The Great Conflagration. Chicago: Its Past, Present and Future, by James W. Sheahan and George T. Upton, 1872
The managers of the Academy of Design were not so fortunate (as other galleries). The gallery was a large one, containing some two hundred and fifty or three hundred works by the best American artists.
Rothermers historical work, “The Battle of Gettysburg,” and some pictures by Bierstadt and the Harts were saved, but the greater number were lost, as the artists, many of whom had studios in the building, had no means of removing them. In addition to the paintings, the splendid collection of casts from the most celebrated antiques, which were in the antique school connected with the Academy, were also lost.
Fine Arts Building
Key 23—Adams street, between State and Dearborn streets
History of “The Peace Makers.”
The Peace Makers
George Peter Alexander Healy
“The Peacemakers” is an 1868 painting by George P.A. Healy. It depicts the historic March 28, 1865, strategy session by the Union high command on the steamer River Queen during the final days of the American Civil War. Lincoln was assassinated on April 15, 1865 (18 days later).
Chicago Tribune, January 19, 1893
The large picture “The Peace Makers,” by G. P. A. Healy, burned in the Calumet club fire. It was presented by Mr. Healy to E. B. McCagg, and at at the time of the great fire in 1871, was in an art gallery near the site of the present Columbia Theater, as Mr. McCagg had no convenient place in his own home to for such a large a picture. It was saved from destruction at that time by cutting the canvas from the stretcher, and was rolled up and sent to St. Louis. It was afterwards returned to Mr. McCagg, and when Gen. Grant was given a reception upon his return from his trip around the world it was borrowed by the club for a reception to him and after that remained in its possession.
The subject showed President Lincoln, Gen. Grant, Gen. Sherman, and Admiral Porter in council in the cabin of an excursion boat on the JAmes River, where they met to consider then project of Sherman’s march to the sea.
The Mentor, February, 1922
RECENTLY there turned up in Chicago a rare Lincoln picture with a remarkable history. For fifty years this portrait study has lain unnoticed in a family storeroom. It is now a treasured possession of the Chicago Historical Society.
G. P. A. Healy, an artist well known in Civil War times as a painter of portraits and historical scenes, put on canvas a picture of Lincoln listening to General Sherman’s recital of his march, which, just the day before, had terminated at Goldsboro, N. C.
This is believed to be the last picture ever made of Lincoln. It shows him as he looked seventeen days before he was shot.
When Lincoln got the word that Sherman had completed his march to the sea, he left Washington post-haste, and met Sherman, Grant, and Admiral Porter on the River Queen, then anchored in the James River. In his “Memoirs,” Sherman mentions this meeting and refers to Lincoln’s boyish eagerness to hear the details of “our march.” “When I left him,” wrote Sherman, “I was more than ever impressed by his kindly nature, his deep sympathy with the afflictions of the whole people, resulting from the war. In the language of his second inaugural address, he seemed to have ‘charity for all, malice toward none,’ and, above all, an absolute faith in the courage, manliness, and integrity of the armies in the field.
“When listening, his face was care-worn and haggard; but the moment he began to talk his face lightened up, his tall form, as it were, unfolded, and he was the very impersonation of good humor and fellowship. The last words I recall were that he would feel better when I was back at Goldsboro. We parted about noon of March 28th, and I never saw him again. Of all the men I ever met, he seemed to possess more of the elements of greatness, combined with goodness, than any other.”
The pose of Lincoln inspired Healy’s 1869 portrait, Abraham Lincoln. Robert Todd Lincoln considered the likeness of his father in this painting to be the “most excellent in existence.”
The U.S. Postal Service commemorated the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln by issuing four first-class commemorative 42-cent stamps. One of these stamps features an image of this painting.
The painting was purchased in 1947 by the U. S. Government.
The painting was displayed in the Treaty Room of the White House from the Kennedy through the George W. Bush presidencies. In his book Decision Points, President Bush mentions the painting specifically and makes the following comment:
Before 9/11, I saw the scene as a fascinating moment in history. After the attack, it took a deeper meaning. The painting reminded me of Lincoln’s clarity of purpose: he waged war for a necessary and noble cause.
It was briefly loaned to the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library from March 11, 2002 to July 31, 2002 for an exhibit entitled, “Fathers and Sons: Two Families, Four Presidents.” The painting is also featured behind the elder Bush in his official presidential portrait, painted by Herbert Abrams.
The Obama administration moved the painting to the private President’s Dining Room, where it currently hangs. There is also a copy of the painting at the Pentagon.