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Joseph Pierre Birren (1864-1933)


Birren was a successful cyclorama painter and commercial illustrator. Some of his 19th century work included:

  • 1882 Assistant to a C. C. Minor, Chicago crayon portrait painter

  • 1884 Assistant, studio of Christian F. Schwerdt, portrait painter

  • 1885-1886 Figure painter, Henry Knight’s cyclorama painting, Battle of Gettysburg

  • 1886 Cyclorama painter, engaged by H. H. Gross

  • 1888-1889 Finished and installed Battle of Gettysburg for H. H. Gross, Sydney, Australia with Cephas H. Collins and C. Wilhelmi of Düsseldorf, later toured Melbourne; Ceylon; Italy; Switzerland

  • 1890-1892 Newspaper illustrator, worked on Texas Siftings for George Luks

  • 1891 Illustrated We All, by Octave Thanet (pseudonym of Alice French)

  • 1893-1894 Chief of Art Staff, The Graphic

  • 1894 J. Manz & Company, Chicago along with J. C. Leyendecker and Henry Hutt


His hobbies included hiking, quoits and golf. The son of an undertaker, the family business lasted for several generations under the Birren name in the Luxembourg neighborhood of West Rogers Park in Chicago. His son was Faber Birren, expert in the theories of color. He was one of the signers of the invitation to artists to contribute works to a memorial collection honoring John H. Vanderpoel which is today the Vanderpoel Art Association and housed at the Beverly, Illinois Art Center. In 1921, he created the Birren Prize for the annual exhibition of architecture at the Art Institute of Chicago.

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