© 2006 University of Chicago Library
University of Chicago. Midway Studios. Records
0.5 linear feet (1 box)
Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library
Midway Studios, the fine arts studios of the Art Department at the University of Chicago since the mid-1940s, was founded by the sculptor Lorado Taft in 1906. Contains correspondence, newspaper clippings, drawings, and photographs. Material relates to Taft and his associates, the 1963 exhibition, "Moment of Creation", which included clay models of some of Taft's larger works, and the renovation of Midway Studios in the 1960s. Also includes the correspondence of the Director of the Studios, Harold Haydon (1960s-1970s).
When quoting material from this collection, the preferred citation is: University of Chicago. Midway Studios. Records, [Box #, Folder #], Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library
The Midway Studios, the fine arts studios of the Art Department of the University of Chicago, was founded by Lorado Taft (1860-1936), renowned American sculptor and teacher. Taft's interest in art was awakened in 1874 when he participated in the restoration of plaster casts of European art works, which had been brought to the University of Illinois by its Regent, John Milton Gregory. Gregory's lectures on art were also an early influence on Taft. After receiving his M.A. from Illinois in 1880, he left for Paris where he attended the Ecole des Beaux Arts. Upon his return in 1886, he settled in Chicago and began a distinguished career as a teacher in the Art Institute, becoming head of the Department of Sculpture. There he pioneered new methods of sculpture instruction by introducing actual carving in marble and group projects. Taft was also associated with the University of Chicago as a professorial lecturer on art. He executed several sculptural works for the University, such as the portrait bust of Silas B. Cobb (1894).
National recognition first came to him in 1893 for his groups of the Sleep of the Flowers and the Awakening of the Flowers on the facade of the Horticultural Building at the World's Columbian Exhibition. Taft is also known for his monumental public works. He fervently believed that beauty and art should be a part of everyday life and was constantly noting locations which might be suitable for a public monument. His works include The Blind (1908, University of Illinois, Urbana), the Black Hawk (1911, Oregon, Illinois), the Columbus Fountain 1912, Washington, D.C.), the Fountain of the Great Lakes (1913, Art Institute, Chicago), and the Fountain of Time (1922, Chicago). (Lists of Taft's important works are found in Box 1, folder 1).
Taft is representative of the sculptural trends of America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. While he was not in the avant-garde or of the stature of European sculptors whose works were pointing the way to future developments in sculpture, Taft was somewhat in advance of his American contemporaries. He was one of the earliest sculptors in America to explore the possibilities of cast concrete sculpture and the use of ideal and allegorical statues for civic decorations and monumental fountains. Man and the problems relating to his humanity provided the subject matter of his art, and while his compositions were often allegorical in meaning, they were always visualized in concrete, naturalistic terms.
It is for his lectures on art that Taft is perhaps most important. He had a strong belief in the place of art in society, stating, "I cannot think of art as a mere adornment of life a frill on human existence but as life itself." His popular lectures on art were part of his crusade to educate the American public about art and to create an atmosphere conducive to its development. He worked particularly for art education in the public schools. As part of his efforts in this direction, he created a Renaissance pageant to be performed for children.
Closely connected with this are his "Peep Shows" or dioramas of famous sculptors' studios throughout history. (Pictures of these can be found in an article in Box 1, folder 1). In addition to his lectures, Taft was a prolific writer, best known for his books, the I (1903) and Modern Tendencies in Sculpture (1921).
Taft's Midway Studios were established by the artist in 1906 in a brick barn located on property belonging to the University of Chicago at 60th and Ellis. His studio provided one of the few good facilities for sculptural work in the city. In 1929 the studios were reestablished one block west on Ingleside Avenue due to University expansion. The original barn, containing Taft's private studio and "dream museum" of miniature models of the world's great sculpture, was moved to the new location. There the high-gabled central court, surrounded by studios was recreated and additions were "built like the chambered nautilus, cell by cell," as Taft was fond of saying. Other artists lived and worked at the studios, forming a kind of artistic community recalling a Renaissance bottega. The studios "were one of the few places in the country where artists could come together to encourage, support and stimulate each other in their work." Although Taft did not formally teach there, he greatly assisted his associates in their artistic developments, sometimes even paying their tuition for formal art courses. While not part of the University during Taft's lifetime, the Midway Studios were used by the University's art students to such an extent that they became a quasi-"official school" for the University. Since the middle 1940's, they have been part of the Department of Art. In 1965 the Midway Studios were designated as a Registered National Historic Landmark, commemorating their significance in the history of American sculpture. During the 1960's the studios underwent renovation and expansion, aided by funds raised by the University of Chicago Women's Board.
The collection contains correspondence, press clippings, photographs and other items documenting the work of Lorado Taft and his associates and the affairs of Midway Studios in the 1960s. Included are written materials connected with the 1962 exhibition of clay models and photographs of Taft's sculpture "Moment of Creation," documents related to management and funding of the studios and correspondence from Director of the Studios Harold Hayden.
The following related resources are located in the Department of Special Collections:
Other correspondence by or related to Taft can be found in the President's Papers 1889-1925 and 1925-45 and the Thomas Chrowder Chamberlin Papers Addenda. An article on Taft's Midway Studios appears in the University Record (new series) 15:144-46.
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Description of Studios
|Box 1 Folder 8|
Press clippings 1929, 1963-66
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Edward D. Dart, Harold Haydon
|Box 1 Folder 11|
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Miscellaneous, 1968, 1972-75, and undated
|Box 1 Folder 14|
Gifts 1962, 1969 and Photographs
|Box 1 Folder 15|
Lorado Taft and Associates
|Box 1 Folder 16|
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Exhibition at Midway Studios, 1962 (includes negatives
|Box 1 Folder 18|
Photographs for Midway Studio brochure
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Sculpture by associates