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The Cosmopolitan Art Club of Chicago (1892 - 1897)

The Cosmopolitan Art Club was founded in March 1892. Many of its members came from the Chicago Society of Artists. Founders included: A. J. Rupert (1854-1954); Frederick W. Freer (1849-1948) and Edgar S. Cameron (1862-1944), among others.[1] Its purpose was to set a high standard for fine arts in the city of Chicago. “This club, which is informal in its organization, is not intended to antagonize the interests of the older Chicago Society of Artists, but to procure the advantages of a smaller number of members having less diverse interests.”[2] The club offered honorary memberships to a few women including Alice Kellogg Tyler (1862-1900) and Pauline Dohn Rudolph (1866-1934).[3]


Their first annual exhibition was held in May 1892 at the Stevens’ Galleries.[4] The cover for this exhibit was designed by sculptor Richard W. Bock (1865-1949), who had this to say: “The [first] exhibition was a huge success and was destined to be a challenge to the older established artists of the city who saw their accepted prestige slipping away to the members of this new organization. And well they might be concerned, for in time the new society and its members became the leaders.”[5]


In January 1894 the club's exhibition was hosted at the Art Institute of Chicago. This show was open to members and nonmembers alike, a policy which would soon be disbanded, as they came into disagreement with the Chicago Society of Artists.[6] Their third annual exhibit was held again at the Art Institute in March 1894.[7] Some of Chicago’s wealthiest patrons served as hostesses for the opening, including veritable “who’s who” of Chicago’s elite with such women as Mrs. Glessner and Mrs. Nickerson.


At the 1895 exhibition, works by artists from Chicago, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Detroit, Cleveland, Minneapolis and Indianapolis were included, along with those by members of the Chicago Society of Artists. The Cosmopolitan held their fifth annual exhibit, which that opened on March 10, 1896 at the Art Institute. This show expanded the previous year's exhibit to include artists of St. Paul, Milwaukee, and Boston.[8] Professor Halsey Ives, founder of the St. Louis School and Museum of Fine Arts, and a director of previous and future international art exhibitions at world’s fairs, stated that sixty percent of the works could have been hung in any international exhibit in the world; evidence of a strong showing.[9]


As so many artists from midwestern cities had attended the exhibition, a “convention of artists” was gathered at the Chicago Athenaeum to discuss a more wide-ranging organization that would tie artists of several cities together.[10] This was the precursor to the formation of the Society of Western Artists, which held its first exhibition later that year, and included artists of these same Midwestern cities.[11] At a dinner held for the end of the season celebration, in sculptor Richard Bock’s studio, the western artists idea was thought by those in attendance to be in some ways related to the Glasgow School of art.[12]


By 1897 the Cosmopolitan Club’s exhibition, its sixth annual and final show, included many notable Hoosier School artists including T. C. Steele (1847-1926), William Forsyth (1854-1935) and Otto Stark (1859-1926). That year, several civic and private clubs banded together to support an annual exhibition of Chicago and vicinity artists at the Art Institute of Chicago. The Society of Western Artists annual exhibition became an important alternative venue, encompassing a broader reach than the Chicago metropolitan area. With these changes, the Cosmopolitan Art Club ceased operations, and most if its members joined with the Society of Western Artists, whose exhibitions continued through 1914.




[1]“The Fine Arts,” Chicago Tribune, 3/6/1892, p.26.

[2]“The Fine Arts,” Chicago Tribune, 3/6/1892, p.26.

[3]Op. cit., Chicago Tribune, 3/6/1892, p.26.

[4]“The Fine Arts,” Chicago Tribune, 1/1/1893, p.39.

[5]Richard W. Bock, Memoirs of an American Artist, Sculptor Richard W. Bock, (Los Angeles: C. C. Publishing, 1991), p.50.

[6]“Chicago Society of Artists,” The Chicago Tribune, 12/11/1894, p.7.

[7]Announcement card, “The Cosmopolitan Art Club of Chicago,” in AIC Scrapbooks, Vol. 5, p.138.

[8]Chicago Evening Journal, 3/4/1896, in AIC Scrapbooks, Vol. 7, col. 1, p.3. A list of the exhibitors may be found in “News Of Current Art,” Chicago Times-Herald, 3/8/1896, p.33 and further elucidation and critique in the 3/15/1896 issue, AIC Scrapbooks, Vol. 7, p.18 as well as in “In The Art Studios,” Chicago Tribune, 3/15/1896 in AIC Scrapbooks, Vol. 7, p.21. See also Vol. 7, p.6.

[9]“Art and Artists,” Chicago Evening Post, 3/14/1896, p.10

[10]“Cosmopolitan Art Club’s Exhibit,” Chicago Tribune, 3/11/1896, p.4. For details on the 1896 exhibition by the Cosmopolitan Club and the announcement of the meeting of artists to form a “Society of Midland Painters” see Grace Duffie Boylan, “Art and Artists,” Chicago Evening Journal, 3/12/1896 in AIC Scrapbooks, Vol. 7, pp.9-10. For an extensive review of the show see “In The Art Studios,” Chicago Tribune, 3/8/1896, p.36.

[11]“In The Social World,” Chicago Times Herald, 3/11/1896, p.5. The exhibition catalogue is available at several midwestern museum libraries including the Ryerson Library of the Art Institute of Chicago.

[12]“Artists Make Merry, Dine in a Sculptor’s Den,” Chicago Chronicle, 4/19/1896, in AIC Scrapbooks, Vol. 7, p.56.

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