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Art Teachers

Consider augmenting your class commentary and activities with the work and stories of artists closer to home.

Sure, you need to talk about Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, show Monet’s Giverny paintings, and Picasso’s Guernica. But what about also describing the artwork of an Illinois artist, someone who lived in your city or your area. Tell her story, show her work. Imagine how engaging it could be for a student to recognize the house the artist lived in, the fields she pictured in her images, the school she went to.

You can also have students make their own artwork in the style of an Illinois woman artist. Creating their own studies will help students understand the techniques and aesthetics of historical art styles, methods, and subjects.

We can help you locate Illinois women artists included on our database. Send us an email telling us your Illinois town, and we’ll locate the artist who is nearest to you. Then you can go to the Artists section of our website to learn what we’ve found out about her. You may want to do a little digging to learn more about her and her time period. Check out our Timeline as well.

Seeing the Sites

You’ll find information and resources about Illinois art, history and writing at the sites listed below. Check our Links page also. Be sure to look for facts, historical descriptions, and ideas at your local historical society, art center and library. Libraries have often been repositories for local artists’ works. Visit the artist’s home and places she frequented if they are still standing.

Illinois Representational Art History
At the Traditional Fine Arts Organization, a list of essays and arts organizations concerned with Illinois representational art history.

WPA Art
Depression Era Art/WPA-FAP in the Illinois State Museum’s Fine Arts Collection. Includes descriptions and definitions, activities and additional resources. And, WPA Artworks a gallery of WPA artwork at the Western Illinois University Gallery.

New Deal Art
The essay Chicago and New Deal Art provides art history, political history, and biography from the Center for New Deal Studies at Roosevelt University.

Chicago Modern
Brief description of the book Chicago Modern, 1893-1945: Pursuit of the New, a survey of early modernism by Chicago artists.

Chicago Painting
Brief description of the book Chicago Painting 1895 to 1945: The Bridges Collection:/em" with articles by art historians Wendy Greenhouse and Susan Weininger.

Chicago Modernism
The Old Guard and the Avant-Garde, Modernism in Chicago, 1910-1940 an exploration of Chicago’s early cultural development can be partially viewed at googlebooks.

Illinois Women Artists’ Works
The National Museum of Women in the Arts includes Illinois women artists’ works in their collection. Research materials and access to their Clara Database are easily available and certainly worth viewing.

Smithsonian Collection of Illinois Women Artists’ Works
Smithsonian American Art Museum site. Search for artist information and images in the Museum’s Collection using the National Art Inventory. View exhibitions and investigate the online activities.

Two Centuries of Art in Illinois
William Gerdts has written 25 books on American art, including the 3-volume set Art Across America: two centuries of regional painting, 1720-1920. One volume is devoted to art of the South and Midwest. It considers the work of several women artists of Illinois and tells the history of art in the state. In a later interview (see url above), Gerdts stated that “Illinois is not interested in Illinois art.” If he is correct, we can help fix that by learning more about the state’s artists.

Art Museums in Illinois
A list of Illinois art museums, organizations and art centers.

History and Social Studies Teachers

You can bring history home by looking at the artwork and reading the stories of women artists who lived in Illinois between 1840 and 1960. The artwork these women made may well capture the imagination of your students. Tell the stories--what life was really like-- using the work of artists from your community and nearby Illinois locales.

Look at the sitters' clothing and the objects assembled around them in portraits by Chicagoans Pauline Palmer and Macena Barton. Note the interiors in the paintings of Frances Badger and Jean Crawford Adams, the street scenes of Rowena Fry (such as “Rush Street” featuring Club Alabam), and those of Adele Fay Williams, who renders scenes of Joliet.

If there are women artists who lived in your town or area of the state, their works and experiences might personalize history for your students. We can help you locate them. Send us an email telling us your Illinois town, and we’ll find the artist who is nearest to you. Then you can go to the Artists section of our website to learn what we’ve found out about her. You may want to do a little digging to learn more about her and her time period. Check out our Timeline also.

Seeing the Sites

You’ll find information and resources about Illinois art, history and writing at the sites listed below. Check our Links page also. Be sure to look for facts, historical descriptions, and ideas at your local historical society, art center and library. Libraries have often been repositories for local artists’ works. Visit the artist’s home and places she frequented if they are still standing.

Illinois Historical Materials
Collections of historical materials, including post cards and photographs, from towns throughout Illinois.

Illinois Women’s Suffrage
From an essay of the Brief History of Woman Suffrage in Illinois to a list of historic sites in Illinois and oral histories featuring 56 Chicago architects.

Illinois Representational Art
A list of essays and arts organizations concerned with Illinois representational art history at the Traditional Fine Arts Organizations.

19th and Early 20th Century Life in Illinois
Illinois State Museum’s At Home in the Heartland website about family life in Illinois including timelines, maps, objects, people, and teacher resources.

A Guide to the History of Illinois by John Hoffman
In his book, A Reader’s Guide to Illinois Literature, editor Robert Bray notes that “Illinois regional literature is crammed with social history. It represents the works and days of common folk and insists upon drawing its scenes and portraits realistically, with carefully reproduced dialect, with foibles, superstitions, and peculiar mannerisms, with evangelistic religion, frontier politics, and democracy and lawlessness.”

Illinois Women in 1868
On to Victory: Propaganda Plays of the Woman’s Suffrage Movement. Catharine Waugh McCulloch wrote a play about the status of Illinois women in 1868.

Federal Writers’ Project
Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project‘s Life Histories from Illinois.

Language Arts Teachers

Women artists from Illinois have spirited stories to tell. With a little research, bolstered by critical thinking and creativity, students can write a short story or a biography about women from their neighborhood. We’ve found that students get very attached to the artists they study.

Three or four students could work on an artist together…one researching and writing about what foods people ate the year the painting was made…another might look into fashions or manners of the day…others might study the type of painting (style, subject, composition) and what it reveals about the artist who painted it. When research and write-ups are done, the team could give a presentation of their findings to the class.

If there are women artists who lived in your town or area of the state, their works and experiences might be of special interest to your students. We can help you locate them. Send us an email telling us your Illinois town, and we’ll locate the artist who is nearest to you. Then you can go to the Artists section of our website to learn what we’ve found out about her. You may want to do a little digging to learn more about her and her time period. Check out our Timeline also.

Seeing the Sites

You’ll find information and resources about Illinois art, history and writing at the sites listed below. Check our Links page also. Be sure to look for facts, historical descriptions, and ideas at your local historical society, art center and library. Libraries have often been repositories for local artists’ works. Visit the artist’s home and places she frequented if they are still standing.

Women Building Chicago
Read a description of the award-wining book, Women Building Chicago 1790-1990, A Biographical Dictionary at Amazon.com. Artist biographies are detailed and especially well written. Also see the Chicago Area Women’s History Council website which supports research, writing, preservation and teaching of women’s history. It initiated the Women Building Chicago book.

Early Women’s Club Directory
Elizabeth Lindsay Davis wrote about African-American Women’s Clubs in her book Lifting as They Climb and she started the Phyllis Wheatley Club and Home in Chicago in 1896.

Illinois Women Novelists in the Nineteenth Century
Provides analysis and an annotated bibliography

19th and Early 20th Century Life in Illinois
Illinois State Museum’s At Home in the Heartland website about family life in Illinois including timelines, maps, objects, people, and teacher resources.

Illinois Literature Course Description
Describing a course on Illinois literature she developed, Beth Widmaier Capo emphasized the significance of studying state literature. She might as well have been talking about a state’s art. She writes: “Using region as a lens can provide links between student experience with landscape and the literature. Roughly half the students were from a specific area that an author was from or a work was set in. …. (an author’s) proximity allowed students to understand that literature is not some alien, elitist form written in Parisian garrets or New York lofts, but that poetry and prose were natural responses to the same Midwestern landscape and customs that produced them.”

Status of Illinois Women in 1868
Catharine Waugh McCulloch (1862-1945) wrote a play about the status of women in Illinois in 1868. Your students might write (and perform) one about the life and times of an early woman artist from your county.

Eliza W. Farnham’s Life in Prairie Land
Written in 1846 describing her life in Illinois. Look for similar books, diaries and journals written by, or about, women. Another example is the book Maud, the diary (1880-95) of Maude Rittenhouse from Cairo, Il. A review in the 1940 Lima News.

Illinois Oral Histories
The oral history collection of the University of Illinois at Springfield. The collection is a vital record of life in Illinois and beyond from the late 19th century to the present, and preserves the memories of many individuals whose experiences would not otherwise be recorded.