In Rudolph Ingerle’s brightly colored image, visitors stroll by the Hall of Science, one of the most important and popular buildings of the Century of Progress exposition, held in Chicago in 1933–1934. The work of architect Paul Philippe Cret, the building featured on its north façade a semicircle of piers interleaved with recessed walls, illuminated at night with lights of varying colors. Positioned in front was a monumental sculpted male figure by John Storrs representing man combatting ignorance, part of an ensemble that appears gold, white, and blue in Ingerle’s painting. The portable medium of this small work and its casual rendering of figures and other foreground features in quick strokes of pigment suggest that it was painted on site. Official photographs and more formal paintings of the fair, such as Frank C. Peyraud’s Afternoon, The Science Palace, World’s Fair 1933, focus on its strikingly modernist architecture; this interpretation, in contrast, takes the perspective of an ordinary fairgoer.
The Century of Progress fair boasted what is considered the first large-scale use of color as an integral part of an architectural plan. Emphasizing new technologies, the exposition also made extensive use of artificial lighting, including colored lights that at night enhanced the effect of a “Rainbow City.” With color photography in its infancy, artists’ renderings were still preferred as a means of capturing the strong tints of the exteriors of many of the buildings. Ingerle was one of a group of artists hired to make paintings of the fair. He created a set of small images that also includes Untitled (Electrical Building at Twilight). According to the Chicago Tribune, Ingerle showed these “sketches” of the Century of Progress on February 28, 1936, at Chicago’s Cliff Dwellers club, of which he was a member.
Wendy Greenhouse, PhD