Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Victor Higgins Studio in Adler, Sullivan and Wright's Auditorium Building Suite

Auditorium Building, 50 E. Congress St.,hicago, 1889. Adler and Sullivan, architects.

I recently made the amazing discovery that now renowned Taos artist Victor Higgins' studio during his seminal tansitional period between Chicago and Taos between 1914 and 1917 was in the penthouse of the Auditorium Building (see above and below), in the same office where Adler and Sullivan and their chief draftsman Frank Lloyd Wright reigned supreme in the 1890s. (Catalogue of Twenty First Annual Exhibition of Artists of Chicago and Vicinity, The Art Institute of Chicago, February 1 to March 4, 1917). 

"New Offices of Adler & Sullivan, Architects, Chicago," Engineering and Building Record, June 7, 1890, p. 5.

Victor Higgins, Taos Pueblo, October 1915. Photo by R. M. Schindler. Courtesy UC-Santa Barbara Architecture and Design Collection, Schindler Papers.

Higgins and architect R. M. Schindler (see above and below) became close friends during his tansitional period between Chicago and Taos between 1914 and 1917. They were both active members in the Chicago Palette and Chisel Club and exhibited together at least twice at the Art Institute of Chicago. Higgins first made the Taos art scene in 1914 and eagerly spread the word to his Palette and Chisel Club mates. During his 1915 summer-fall sojourn Higgins invited Schindler to visit him in Taos (see above) during the fledgling architect's West Coast trip to view the Panama International and Panama California Expositions in San Francisco and San Diego. (For much more on Schindler's Taos visit see my "Edward Weston and Mabel Dodge Luhan Remember D. H. Lawrence and Selected Carmel-Toas Connections").

R. M. Schindler at an outing of the Chicago Palette and Chisel Club, 1915. Photographer unknown. Courtesy UC Santa Barbara Art Museum, Architecture and Design Collections, Schindler Collection.

From his 17th story Auditorium Building aerie Higgins could survey the Art Institute a block to the north across Michigan Ave. and the Monroe Building (see below) where Barry Byrne and Alfonso Iannelli had studios in the 16th story penthouse directly across the street from the Art Institute during the same time. (For much more on the Byrne-Iannelli-Lloyd and John Wright-Schindler connections see my "Irving Gill, Homer Laughlin and the Beginnings of Modern Architecture in Los Angeles, Part II, 1911-1916").

Monroe Building (center), 104 S. Michigan Ave., Holabird and Roche, architects, 1912.

Schindler, whose social life centered upon the Art Institute and the Palette and Chisel Club would during his Chicago years undoubtedly have visited both penthouses and taken in their amazing views of the lake and the Art Institute (see below). It would be interesting to learn whether Schindler ever discussed with Wright and/or Sullivan the coincidental use of their former offices by Schindler's pal Higgins after Schindler came into Wright's employ in 1918. (For much more on Schindler's relationship with Sullivan see my "R. M. Schindler, Richard Neutra and Louis Sullivan's 'Kindergarten Chats'").

Art Institute of Chicago and Monroe Building in the distant far right. Photo by R. M. Schindler, 1915. Courtesy UC Santa Barbara Art Museum, Architecture and Design Collections, Schindler Collection.

During 1916 and 1917 both Schindler and Higgins exhibited their work at the Art Institute in annual Chicago Palette and Chisel Club (see above and below), Artists of Chicago and Vicinity, and Chicago Architectural Club exhibitions. (Art Institute of Chicago Exhibition History).

"New Mexican Dooryard" by Victor Higgins, 1915. 

For example in the 1916 Palette and Chisel Club exhibition Higgins contributed three paintings including "New Mexican Dooryard" (see above). Schindler exhibited an architectural model and a pencil drawing (see below).

"Taos Building" by R. M. Schindler, 1915. Courtesy UC Santa Barbara Art Museum, Architecture and Design Collections, Schindler Collection.

Victor Higgins: An American Master by Dean A. Porter, Gibbs-Smith, 1991.

I have in development a totally fascinating exhibition triangulating the Chicago, Los Angeles and Taos connections of Higgins, Schindler and their now iconic Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago Palette and Chisel Club and Chicago Architectural Club mates. Stay tuned for much more.

The Architecture of R. M. Schindler by Michael Darling and Elizabeth A.T. Smith, Abrams, 2001.