Winnetka’s Artistic Past

Gazette Article by: Nan Greenough
Appeared in the Gazette: Fall 2009

<img src=”images/35t.jpg” class = “right” />The Historical Society’s new exhibit, _Palette of Our Past: Artists in Winnetka_, features artists who put Winnetka on the map in the fine arts world. Educated at some of the most highly-regarded art schools, exhibiting their work throughout the country and even the world, these artists were respected along with some of the major names of the 1910s, 20s and 30s.

*Charles Haag* (1867-1933) was a Swedish-born sculptor who moved to Winnetka at the encouragement of the Lloyd family. His outdoor Winnetka sculptures include the figure of a seated man at the corner of Lloyd Place and Sheridan Road and the bronze memorial plaque honoring Henry Demarest Lloyd and his wife, Jessie Bross Lloyd. He designed his own house at 897 Cherry Street as well as Lola Maverick Lloyd’s house at the corner of Cherry and Birch.

Art was the family business for the Albrights. *Adam Emory Albright* (1862-1957) produced light-filled oil paintings that merited a one-man show at the Art Institute of Chicago. He designed an impressive log house on Scott Avenue as a family home and studio. Son Ivan’s work could not have been more different from his father’s sunny impressionistic paintings. *Ivan Albright* (1897-1983) was known for idiosyncratic portraits that exaggerated the effects of age and decay. Several of his paintings are on permanent display at the Art Institute.

*Herman Peterson* (1892-1969) trained as an engineer and produced architectural drawings during his career. But he was gifted in portraiture and was commissioned by the U.S. Navy to produce twelve portraits of naval heroes. His luminous landscapes capture the rural character of pre-war Winnetka.

Another artistically engaged family, mother *Anita Willets Burnham* (1880-1957) and daughter *Carol-Lou Burnham* (1908-1997) lived in the Log House (now in Crow Island Woods), which Anita discovered and moved to Tower Road in 1917. Anita was a trained artist who studied at the Art Institute, among other places. She was a tireless teacher, author, lecturer and world traveler who exhibited her work throughout North America. Carol-Lou, trained by her mother, was one of the youngest artists to exhibit at the Paris Salon. Her work was also displayed at the Art Institute and the Century of Progress world’s fair.

*Herman Menzel* (1904-1988) lived in Hubbard Woods on Scott Avenue. His oil paintings explore the margins between industrial and natural landscape. The exhibit features his work and the studies that led up to the final painting, providing insights into his technique and extremely precise brushwork.

*Fairfield Porter* (1907-1975) grew up on the bluff overlooking Lake Michigan to the east of Sheridan Road. He successfully produced realist work — both landscape and portraiture — in the midst of the Abstract Expressionist movement. He has since been hailed by John Ashbery as “perhaps the major American artist of this century.”

*Nancy Coonsman Hahn* (c. 1887-1976) studied sculpture at the St. Louis School of Fine Arts and won many commissions for large memorials and public fountains. She lived with her family in a bungalow at 370 Walnut. She created many small statues and busts for North Shore families, some of which are featured in this exhibit.

Tying it all together, the exhibit also examines the development of the North Shore Art League, founded at the Winnetka Community House in 1924. As it did then, the Art League still provides classes in painting, sculpture, and outdoor sketching as well as exhibitions. In 1939 the Art League staged Fairfield Porter’s first exhibition.  The work of Nancy Coonsman Hahn, Anita Willets Burnham and Carol-Lou Burnham was also featured by the Art League, which has provided a gathering place for artists throughout the Chicago area for more than eight decades.

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