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Sister Wendy's American Collection
The Museums

The Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago owes its origin to the great cultural expansion in the United States during the second half of the 19th century. Like its counterparts in Boston and New York, this public collection was intended to provide cultural education to ordinary inhabitants of a city mainly occupied with industry, farming, and commerce. Unlike many European museums of the era, these institutions were designed to be open to the public from the beginning. Although the founders of The Institute hoped that public viewing of great European masterpieces would be culturally and morally edifying, they also had a more practical aim. By collecting the best in art and design, museums like The Art Institute aimed to improve craft and design by workers in their own cities. This result was important to Chicago, then, as now, one of the leading manufacturing areas of the country.

The first stirrings of the museum began with the Chicago Design School, founded in 1866. This training academy was taken over by a group of businessmen who founded The Institute in 1871, the year Chicago's catastrophic fire transformed the Midwestern trading center into a blank slate. As Chicago was rebuilding, savvy collecting by museum board members led to the acquisition of fine European paintings, particularly works of the French Impressionists. As the museum moved into the 20th century, a commitment to new art continued. And now, the encyclopedic collections span many centuries and all genres, including exhibits ranging from African and Amerindian art to arms and armor and textiles.

The Web site for The Art Institute of Chicago, available at includes QTVR tours of many galleries, as well as individual entries on paintings and online exhibitions.

The Art Institute of Chicago | The Cleveland Museum of Art | Kimbell Art Museum
Los Angeles County Museum of Art | The Metropolitan Museum of Art | Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

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Other works from this museum featured in the program City Landscape Ceremonial Drum American Gothic