Orleans Street, Chicago

Fanciful tints enliven a prosaic scene from Aaron Bohrod’s own neighborhood in his painting Orleans Street, Chicago. As a lighted “L” (elevated) train passes over a vivid blue metal bridge, daily life proceeds below: a horse-drawn cart or wagon dashes by at the lower left; a man runs across the street under the tracks; a bent figure in black walks by a white frame cottage, where a woman holds a child on the narrow front stoop. The antiquated buildings are remnants of the booming development Chicago experienced after the devastating Great Fire of 1871. By the early twentieth century, the North Side area known as Old Town (now almost wholly gentrified) was a down-at-the-heels quarter whose low rents attracted many artists. The neighborhood was within easy reach of downtown via the L. The painting probably shows the point where the track of the Ravenswood (now Brown) Line crosses Orleans Street just south of North Avenue as it curves westward toward the Sedgewick station.

In 1932, Bohrod returned to his native Chicago from two years of study in New York and quickly launched his career with a well-received solo gallery exhibition of prints and watercolor paintings. Of these works the Tribune’s art critic, Eleanor Jewett, wrote admiringly, “Mr. Bohrod dashes through Chicago and New York and laughingly, whimsically shows us the park, the streets, the elevated, a hit-and-miss medley of scenes and places of which each is a gem in the beauty of its coloring.”i For the next few years Bohrod continued to paint the city around him in this light-hearted vein, creating Orleans Street, Chicago and other oil paintings of neighborhood places, often showing the L. In picturing everyday life around him, he was inspired by the teaching and example of John Sloan, his most important instructor at New York’s Art Students League; he was also following a current national trend in favor of accessible, relatable, American themes. The naïve style, expressive brushwork, and buoyant colorism of this and other early paintings by Bohrod seem to defy the grave mood of a nation gripped by the Great Depression. Soon, however, the artist developed a harder, more detailed, and somber-toned approach to painting the decayed urban scene, one more in keeping with the times.

Wendy Greenhouse, PhD

i Eleanor Jewett, “Two Good Art Exhibits Vary in Treatment,” Chicago Tribune, Oct. 5, 1932.

Untitled (Steamer in Harbor)

This painting is part of a group discussed in the following essay.

All four Chicago River views by James Bolivar Needham are studies of boats and buildings seen at a distance across the water’s slick surface under a mottled gray sky. Painted with rapid, obvious brushstrokes, Needham’s views appear to be unedited, quickly captured records of transitory scenes as noted by an objective observer. Yet the artist selected his viewpoints carefully to achieve a balance of vertical and horizontal forms and contrasts of color. The diffused light and somewhat smoky atmosphere, typical of the river in its industrial heyday at the turn of the twentieth century, lend subtle pastel tints to far-off structures and their shimmering reflections. In Tugboats and Steamer in Harbor, the steam issuing in plumes from the boats’ stacks unites the solid forms of the vessels with the hazy atmosphere overhead. Chicago River No. 1 and No. 2 both feature a horizon line exactly balanced between the top and bottom edges of the composition, the lower portion of which mirrors the pale neutral tones of the sky, setting off the diagonally receding, more densely colored band of boats, buildings, and their reflections.

Having worked as a deckhand on the Great Lakes as a young man, Needham was intimately familiar with shipping on the Chicago River, which he painted almost exclusively for several decades. As an African American and an outsider in Chicago’s art world, Needham had few formal opportunities to study art, particularly the depiction of the figure; the river, however, was always available, offering along its length a constantly changing spectacle and spots where he could paint undisturbed. Needham’s paintings often depict specific locales and named vessels. Yet the artist was less interested in physical details and identity than in creating compositions from the elements before him, particularly the subtle color effects resulting from the river’s shifting light and atmosphere. Compared with Goose Island, a Chicago River painting by the artist’s reputed teacher Albert Fleury, Needham’s works reflect greater concern for capturing transient light effects than for surface “finish.” This quality and his works’ apparent on-site execution suggest the artist’s awareness of impressionism, a radical approach to painting that was sweeping Chicago’s art scene in the early 1890s, just as he began painting the river.

Needham’s sensitivity to the “poetic” possibilities of the river, which was notorious in his day for its filth and noxious odors, made him an artistic pioneer in the mid-1890s. Within a few years a host of Chicago landscape painters, notably Fleury and William Clusmann, were discovering the river for themselves. By then Needham was painting in obscurity and the river itself faced industrial and commercial obsolescence thanks in part to implementation of portions of Daniel Burnham’s Plan of Chicago of 1909. As if acknowledging that reality, Needham’s images banish the frenzied activity that once characterized the city’s waterways, confining movement to the flickering surface of the water and wraiths of smoke.

These four paintings are typical of Needham’s works in their small scale and their medium: oil on panel (in the case of Chicago River No. 1) or oil on canvas wrapped around panel. Often the panels on which Needham painted appear to have been cut down from packing cases of the sort commonly carried on the very boats he pictured. Steamer in Harbor is cradled at the back, possibly to prevent warping as well as to provide a handle, allowing the artist to hold the panel with its edges free as he painted. Chicago River No. 1Tugboats, and Steamer in Harbor feature Needham’s hallmark treatment of the backs of his supports: on a coat of matte black paint (possibly boat paint), he inscribed in red such information as the painting’s size and exact date of execution, enclosed in a red diamond-shaped outline. Steamer in Harbor and Chicago River No. 2 are among the very few known paintings by Needham that bear his signature on the front.

Wendy Greenhouse, PhD

Untitled (Tugboats)

This painting is part of a group discussed in the following essay.

All four Chicago River views by James Bolivar Needham are studies of boats and buildings seen at a distance across the water’s slick surface under a mottled gray sky. Painted with rapid, obvious brushstrokes, Needham’s views appear to be unedited, quickly captured records of transitory scenes as noted by an objective observer. Yet the artist selected his viewpoints carefully to achieve a balance of vertical and horizontal forms and contrasts of color. The diffused light and somewhat smoky atmosphere, typical of the river in its industrial heyday at the turn of the twentieth century, lend subtle pastel tints to far-off structures and their shimmering reflections. In Tugboats and Steamer in Harbor, the steam issuing in plumes from the boats’ stacks unites the solid forms of the vessels with the hazy atmosphere overhead. Chicago River No. 1 and No. 2 both feature a horizon line exactly balanced between the top and bottom edges of the composition, the lower portion of which mirrors the pale neutral tones of the sky, setting off the diagonally receding, more densely colored band of boats, buildings, and their reflections.

Having worked as a deckhand on the Great Lakes as a young man, Needham was intimately familiar with shipping on the Chicago River, which he painted almost exclusively for several decades. As an African American and an outsider in Chicago’s art world, Needham had few formal opportunities to study art, particularly the depiction of the figure; the river, however, was always available, offering along its length a constantly changing spectacle and spots where he could paint undisturbed. Needham’s paintings often depict specific locales and named vessels. Yet the artist was less interested in physical details and identity than in creating compositions from the elements before him, particularly the subtle color effects resulting from the river’s shifting light and atmosphere. Compared with Goose Island, a Chicago River painting by the artist’s reputed teacher Albert Fleury, Needham’s works reflect greater concern for capturing transient light effects than for surface “finish.” This quality and his works’ apparent on-site execution suggest the artist’s awareness of impressionism, a radical approach to painting that was sweeping Chicago’s art scene in the early 1890s, just as he began painting the river.

Needham’s sensitivity to the “poetic” possibilities of the river, which was notorious in his day for its filth and noxious odors, made him an artistic pioneer in the mid-1890s. Within a few years a host of Chicago landscape painters, notably Fleury and William Clusmann, were discovering the river for themselves. By then Needham was painting in obscurity and the river itself faced industrial and commercial obsolescence thanks in part to implementation of portions of Daniel Burnham’s Plan of Chicago of 1909. As if acknowledging that reality, Needham’s images banish the frenzied activity that once characterized the city’s waterways, confining movement to the flickering surface of the water and wraiths of smoke.

These four paintings are typical of Needham’s works in their small scale and their medium: oil on panel (in the case of Chicago River No. 1) or oil on canvas wrapped around panel. Often the panels on which Needham painted appear to have been cut down from packing cases of the sort commonly carried on the very boats he pictured. Steamer in Harbor is cradled at the back, possibly to prevent warping as well as to provide a handle, allowing the artist to hold the panel with its edges free as he painted. Chicago River No. 1Tugboats, and Steamer in Harbor feature Needham’s hallmark treatment of the backs of his supports: on a coat of matte black paint (possibly boat paint), he inscribed in red such information as the painting’s size and exact date of execution, enclosed in a red diamond-shaped outline. Steamer in Harbor and Chicago River No. 2 are among the very few known paintings by Needham that bear his signature on the front.

Wendy Greenhouse, PhD

Untitled (Chicago River No. 1)

This painting is part of a group discussed in the following essay.

All four Chicago River views by James Bolivar Needham are studies of boats and buildings seen at a distance across the water’s slick surface under a mottled gray sky. Painted with rapid, obvious brushstrokes, Needham’s views appear to be unedited, quickly captured records of transitory scenes as noted by an objective observer. Yet the artist selected his viewpoints carefully to achieve a balance of vertical and horizontal forms and contrasts of color. The diffused light and somewhat smoky atmosphere, typical of the river in its industrial heyday at the turn of the twentieth century, lend subtle pastel tints to far-off structures and their shimmering reflections. In Tugboats and Steamer in Harbor, the steam issuing in plumes from the boats’ stacks unites the solid forms of the vessels with the hazy atmosphere overhead. Chicago River No. 1 and No. 2 both feature a horizon line exactly balanced between the top and bottom edges of the composition, the lower portion of which mirrors the pale neutral tones of the sky, setting off the diagonally receding, more densely colored band of boats, buildings, and their reflections.

Having worked as a deckhand on the Great Lakes as a young man, Needham was intimately familiar with shipping on the Chicago River, which he painted almost exclusively for several decades. As an African American and an outsider in Chicago’s art world, Needham had few formal opportunities to study art, particularly the depiction of the figure; the river, however, was always available, offering along its length a constantly changing spectacle and spots where he could paint undisturbed. Needham’s paintings often depict specific locales and named vessels. Yet the artist was less interested in physical details and identity than in creating compositions from the elements before him, particularly the subtle color effects resulting from the river’s shifting light and atmosphere. Compared with Goose Island, a Chicago River painting by the artist’s reputed teacher Albert Fleury, Needham’s works reflect greater concern for capturing transient light effects than for surface “finish.” This quality and his works’ apparent on-site execution suggest the artist’s awareness of impressionism, a radical approach to painting that was sweeping Chicago’s art scene in the early 1890s, just as he began painting the river.

Needham’s sensitivity to the “poetic” possibilities of the river, which was notorious in his day for its filth and noxious odors, made him an artistic pioneer in the mid-1890s. Within a few years a host of Chicago landscape painters, notably Fleury and William Clusmann, were discovering the river for themselves. By then Needham was painting in obscurity and the river itself faced industrial and commercial obsolescence thanks in part to implementation of portions of Daniel Burnham’s Plan of Chicago of 1909. As if acknowledging that reality, Needham’s images banish the frenzied activity that once characterized the city’s waterways, confining movement to the flickering surface of the water and wraiths of smoke.

These four paintings are typical of Needham’s works in their small scale and their medium: oil on panel (in the case of Chicago River No. 1) or oil on canvas wrapped around panel. Often the panels on which Needham painted appear to have been cut down from packing cases of the sort commonly carried on the very boats he pictured. Steamer in Harbor is cradled at the back, possibly to prevent warping as well as to provide a handle, allowing the artist to hold the panel with its edges free as he painted. Chicago River No. 1Tugboats, and Steamer in Harbor feature Needham’s hallmark treatment of the backs of his supports: on a coat of matte black paint (possibly boat paint), he inscribed in red such information as the painting’s size and exact date of execution, enclosed in a red diamond-shaped outline. Steamer in Harbor and Chicago River No. 2 are among the very few known paintings by Needham that bear his signature on the front.

Wendy Greenhouse, PhD

Untitled (Chicago River No. 2)

This painting is part of a group discussed in the following essay.

All four Chicago River views by James Bolivar Needham are studies of boats and buildings seen at a distance across the water’s slick surface under a mottled gray sky. Painted with rapid, obvious brushstrokes, Needham’s views appear to be unedited, quickly captured records of transitory scenes as noted by an objective observer. Yet the artist selected his viewpoints carefully to achieve a balance of vertical and horizontal forms and contrasts of color. The diffused light and somewhat smoky atmosphere, typical of the river in its industrial heyday at the turn of the twentieth century, lend subtle pastel tints to far-off structures and their shimmering reflections. In Tugboats and Steamer in Harbor, the steam issuing in plumes from the boats’ stacks unites the solid forms of the vessels with the hazy atmosphere overhead. Chicago River No. 1 and No. 2 both feature a horizon line exactly balanced between the top and bottom edges of the composition, the lower portion of which mirrors the pale neutral tones of the sky, setting off the diagonally receding, more densely colored band of boats, buildings, and their reflections.

Having worked as a deckhand on the Great Lakes as a young man, Needham was intimately familiar with shipping on the Chicago River, which he painted almost exclusively for several decades. As an African American and an outsider in Chicago’s art world, Needham had few formal opportunities to study art, particularly the depiction of the figure; the river, however, was always available, offering along its length a constantly changing spectacle and spots where he could paint undisturbed. Needham’s paintings often depict specific locales and named vessels. Yet the artist was less interested in physical details and identity than in creating compositions from the elements before him, particularly the subtle color effects resulting from the river’s shifting light and atmosphere. Compared with Goose Island, a Chicago River painting by the artist’s reputed teacher Albert Fleury, Needham’s works reflect greater concern for capturing transient light effects than for surface “finish.” This quality and his works’ apparent on-site execution suggest the artist’s awareness of impressionism, a radical approach to painting that was sweeping Chicago’s art scene in the early 1890s, just as he began painting the river.

Needham’s sensitivity to the “poetic” possibilities of the river, which was notorious in his day for its filth and noxious odors, made him an artistic pioneer in the mid-1890s. Within a few years a host of Chicago landscape painters, notably Fleury and William Clusmann, were discovering the river for themselves. By then Needham was painting in obscurity and the river itself faced industrial and commercial obsolescence thanks in part to implementation of portions of Daniel Burnham’s Plan of Chicago of 1909. As if acknowledging that reality, Needham’s images banish the frenzied activity that once characterized the city’s waterways, confining movement to the flickering surface of the water and wraiths of smoke.

These four paintings are typical of Needham’s works in their small scale and their medium: oil on panel (in the case of Chicago River No. 1) or oil on canvas wrapped around panel. Often the panels on which Needham painted appear to have been cut down from packing cases of the sort commonly carried on the very boats he pictured. Steamer in Harbor is cradled at the back, possibly to prevent warping as well as to provide a handle, allowing the artist to hold the panel with its edges free as he painted. Chicago River No. 1, Tugboats, and Steamer in Harbor feature Needham’s hallmark treatment of the backs of his supports: on a coat of matte black paint (possibly boat paint), he inscribed in red such information as the painting’s size and exact date of execution, enclosed in a red diamond-shaped outline. Steamer in Harbor and Chicago River No. 2 are among the very few known paintings by Needham that bear his signature on the front.

Wendy Greenhouse, PhD

Untitled (Cottage Grove Street Car)

In Morris Topchevsky’s tightly framed composition, three figures encased in bulky winter outerwear are packed into a city streetcar. Next to a woman in a fur-trimmed coat, a bespectacled man with lined cheeks gazes out the window at the passing urban scene. The formal attire of another passenger—a Homburg hat and overcoat, a white shirt and a tie showing beneath his chin—contrasts with the object in his hands, apparently the handle of a stout shovel. The three riders seem unconnected from one another and resigned to the boredom of a familiar journey, with the tilted head and anxious expression of the man with the shovel hinting at unknown cares. Topchevsky’s palette evokes the dreary chill of winter in the city. Soft dull browns and greens tie the clothing of the two nearer figures to the wooden framework of the streetcar windows, while the muted gray of the coat worn by the man in the middle echoes the blue-white of the frigid sky beyond, reflected in his glasses.

Painting in Chicago and Mexico, Topchevsky made working-class people the focus of his art throughout his career. In sympathetic images of laborers and strikers he showed black and white workers together, united in a heroic struggle for justice. In addition, he painted scenes of everyday life in Chicago’s African American neighborhood known as Bronzeville, where between the early 1930s and the end of his life he lived and taught at the Abraham Lincoln Center, on Cottage Grove Avenue. Often his images address the precarious existence of black Chicagoans in an era of mass unemployment and Jim Crow segregation. Untitled (Cottage Grove Street Car), however, is uncharacteristically nuanced for Topchevsky. The three passengers are dignified and elegantly dressed, seemingly at home in the modern city. Yet the prominent shovel incongruously held by the well-attired man on the left hints at necessity and the restricted opportunities available to African Americans not only in employment but also in housing, education, entrepreneurship, and other areas.

The heavily outlined, powerfully modeled forms seen here are typical of Topchevsky’s paintings of the early 1940s. Throughout his career the artist worked in a deliberately anti-academic manner influenced by the “naïve” aesthetic of the Mexican social realists and possibly also inspired by traditional Russian peasant arts. This painting is likely the work titled Cottage Grove Street Car included in a memorial exhibition for Topchevsky organized by the American Jewish Arts Club in December 1947. The streetcar, which the artist himself would have ridden frequently, was the subject of an earlier watercolor painting In a Street Car, shown in exhibitions of art created under the auspices of the Federal Art Project held in New York and in Chicago in 1938.

Wendy Greenhouse, PhD

The Horse Auction

Walter Krawiec’s The Horse Auction makes the viewer a close-up spectator of a lively scene packed with traders and onlookers as an auctioneer calls the bids on a pair of white horses. The motley assortment of men crowding the foreground includes a bearded figure in a peaked cap, perhaps an immigrant, who turns away from the horses as he holds a whip upright. From the auctioneer’s enclosed platform, two well-dressed men and a girl in blue look on. At the left, more people cram into the space and the heads of several horses are silhouetted against the light from an open door.

With its loose brushwork and casually sketched figures, Krawiec’s image suggests on-the-spot reportage, perhaps reflecting the artist’s long experience as a newspaper cartoonist. He was also deeply familiar with the world of horses and the people who work with them, having become an artist in order to record the animals he had loved from boyhood. In the early 1930s Krawiec made a name for himself as a painter of horses at the circus in particular, and he also painted them at racetracks and polo grounds, on farms, pulling fire engines, and as recreational mounts. The horse auction seems to have been a singular subject, however, for only one known title for a Krawiec painting indicates such a setting: The Horse Auction, a work he exhibited in the Art Institute of Chicago’s 1941 annual “Chicago and Vicinity” show, is probably identical with this painting.

In the 1940s horse and other livestock auctions still took place at Chicago’s Union Stock Yards, as pictured by Francis Chapin in a painting and related lithograph made in the early 1930s. Krawiec’s auction, however, focuses on horses for show and recreation, as indicated by the beauty of the matched animals and the well-heeled aspect of the observers on the platform. From his childhood in a rural village in Poland to mid-twentieth-century Chicago, Krawiec witnessed the horse’s transition from a commonly seen work animal to a plaything of elite leisure.

Wendy Greenhouse, PhD

Electrical Entrance

Otto Koch’s strongly colored Electrical Entrance focuses on the Water Gate entrance to the Electrical Building at A Century of Progress, Chicago’s 1933-1934 exposition. An asymmetrical U-shaped structure, the building was the work of New York architect Raymond Hood, while the two monumental pylons flanking the Water Gate bore sculptural reliefs by Lee Lawrie, representing light and sound. The building’s striking, black, green, and bright red exterior reflected designer Joseph Urban’s plan for the fair to be a vibrant “Rainbow City,” in contrast to the “White City” of Chicago’s 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. In Koch’s painting, the Electrical Building glows in the afternoon sun of a summer day. It projects a shimmering reflection onto the rippled surface of the South Lagoon, where an electric launch and two gondolas ferry visitors under a fair-weather sky. The only known painting by Koch, this work reveals considerable facility, suggesting that it was not the artist’s only attempt in the medium.

Koch was one of several artists who produced paintings of the Century of Progress exposition under the name Groh Associates. Like Frank Peyraud’s Afternoon, The Science Palace, World’s Fair, this work bears on the back the Groh Associates stamp and the signatures of its two directors, Edward T. Grigware and Rudolph Ingerle. The latter made his own painting of the subject, Untitled (Electrical Building at Twilight), showing a scene almost identical to Koch’s but from a vantage point slightly to the right. The most striking difference between the two paintings, however, is in the color of the building, a cool white in Ingerle’s image. The bright hues shown by Koch disappeared after the exposition’s 1933 season under a coat of white paint that transformed the fair for its second year.

The Groh Associates’ paintings may have been intended for reproduction in color, for the color photography of the day was inadequate for conveying the vivid tints of the 1933 fair. While the exposition was open in the summer of 1934, the paintings, including Koch’s, were displayed at the Marshall Field and Company department store in an exhibition sponsored by Westinghouse Electric Company, one of the chief suppliers of electricity to the exposition. The paintings’ subjects, noted one reviewer, demonstrated “the attempt…to capture light and its phenomena.”i  The paintings were exhibited again in January and in August 1935, as A Century of Progress became the stuff of memory.

Wendy Greenhouse, PhD

i  C. J. Bulliet, “Around the Galleries: ‘Painting by Light,’” Chicago Daily News, Aug. 25, 1934.

Over the Top in 1933 (Armistice Day)

Eager spectators line the way as three uniformed flag-bearers flanked by rifle-toting escorts and a drum major march south across Chicago’s Michigan Avenue Bridge in Jerome Klapka’s Over the Top in 1933. A fluttering Stars and Stripes dominates the center of the vertical composition; to its right is a light-colored banner displaying the emblem of the American Legion, with an unidentified dark-blue-and-gold flag between them. Rising in the background are the Tribune Tower and the Medinah Athletic Club (now part of the InterContinental Chicago Hotel), with the Wrigley Building framing the view on the left. A blue sky with billowing white clouds complements the upbeat mood of this patriotic image, in which the neutral tones of the backdrop and spectators set off the brilliant whites and blues of the marchers’ uniforms. Klapka’s solidly representational style bespeaks his training as a commercial artist. He likely painted Over the Top in 1933 in the studio from photographs or sketches made on site.

At the height of the Great Depression, as Chicago celebrated its Century of Progress Exposition, the opening of the fifteenth annual congress of the American Legion on October 3, 1933, was marked by a parade promoted as the largest ever staged in North America. Watched by crowds estimated in the hundreds of thousands, it featured a reported 120,000 military veterans, 350 bands, 200 drum corps, and 250 floats. Kicking off at the bridge at ten o’clock in the morning, the entire parade reached Soldier Field a mile and a half away after seven that evening. This “masterpiece of military precision and of civic opulence” (in the Chicago Tribune’s estimation) was intended to support President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s call for national unity during a process of economic reconstruction as urgent as national defense in wartime.i “Going over the top” was an expression used during World War I to describe abandoning the relative safety of the trenches to risk open fire on the battlefield. In Klapka’s painting, “over the top” describes one segment of the parade getting under way and, metaphorically, the nation setting out to tackle daunting economic challenges.

Over the Top in 1933 was perhaps Klapka’s best-known image. The American Legion reproduced it on brochures for its conventions in 1934 and again in 1946 and 1952. In 1936, it was reproduced on the front covers of both the Chicago Tribune’s rotogravure section and the Medinah Athletic Club members’ magazine, where it was erroneously titled Armistice Day in reference to the November 11 commemoration of the end of World War I, the holiday known since 1954 as Veterans Day.

Wendy Greenhouse, PhD

i James O’Donnell Bennett, “Chicago Throngs Cheer March of Vets,” Chicago Tribune, Oct. 4, 1933.

Afternoon, The Science Palace, World’s Fair, 1933

Frank Peyraud’s painting shows the Hall of Science at Chicago’s Century of Progress Exposition. In contrast to Rudolph Ingerle’s Untitled (Hall of Science at Night), a nighttime view of the building’s north entrance, Peyraud pictured the structure from the south in the full light of afternoon, under a cloudless sky. Designed by Paul Philippe Cret, the Hall of Science was filled with wondrous displays of modern discoveries and innovations, of which Peyraud gives little hint. In his portrayal the building’s blocky form is softened by intervening trees and the bright colors of its exterior are relatively subdued, notwithstanding their echo in the broad reflecting pool in the foreground. Crowning the scene is the Carillon Tower, a 176-foot-high glass-and-steel structure from which music was played both day and night. Inspired by European modernist design, its irregular form contrasted vertical and horizontal elements, a heavy flat roof on the main section with a soaring spire on the northeast corner enlivened with colorful flags, as seen here. Just behind rises one of the two steel skeleton towers of the Sky Ride, among the exposition’s most popular attractions. A complex web of cables supported the “rocket cars” that provided a “beautiful and, mayhap, thrilling ride” to the far side of the lagoon at the heart of the fairgrounds.i Clearly visible in photographic views of the Hall of Science from the south, the cables are absent in Peyraud’s view, in which the Sky Ride tower itself is a relatively shadowy presence in the background.

By 1933 Peyraud was nearing the end of his career as a successful painter of bucolic landscapes such as Summer Evening. The Century of Progress exposition represented a departure from his usual subjects. Yet it also drew on his earliest professional training—as an architect—and his first significant painting experience—as a contributor to cycloramas, enormous paintings-in-the-round that called for skills in perspective and in the composition of large-scale scenes. Afternoon, The Science Palace, World’s Fair also conformed to Peyraud’s long-practiced style, a conservative brand of impressionism that combined broken brushwork with a concern for structured composition and firmly defined forms.

Afternoon, The Science Palace, World’s Fair is one of a group of images of the Century of Progress exposition created by artists working under the name Groh Associates. Their paintings of the fair, which also included Otto Koch’s Electrical Entrance, were intended to record the brilliant color and advanced lighting technologies that were among the most striking features of the exposition. Peyraud’s canvas may have been among the group when it was exhibited at the Marshall Field and Company department store in Chicago during the 1934 fair season.

Wendy Greenhouse, PhD

i Official Guide: Book of the Fair 1933 (Chicago: A Century of Progress Administration Buildings, [1933]), 121.