Max Epstein Photographic Archive

Max Epstein
Max Epstein (Archival Photographic Files)

The Max Epstein Photographic Archive is a collection of reproductions of painting, sculpture, drawings, architecture, photography and decorative arts of Eastern and Western art dating from the neolithic period to the twentieth century.


The Collection

The Archive is named after Max Epstein (1875-1954), a business executive and philanthropist who in 1937 founded the collection by donating a large number of photographs acquired from the famous Art Library of Sir Robert Witt, a photographic archive now at the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London. The Archive has since increased its holdings through purchases and additional gifts.

The core of the Archive is approximately 168,000 mounted photographs. Most are black and white, 8 x 10" photographs which have been ordered from various museums' reproductions departments. The collection has especially strong holdings in Western and Eastern European Medieval art and architecture, in particular French romanesque sculpture and architecture, and in Renaissance and Baroque art, with particular emphasis on prints and drawings. Also worth mentioning are the 5,000 photographs documenting the art works distributed by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation to art museums in the country in the 1960s; among these are ca. 3,000 of works now in the National Gallery in Washington. There are also important photographs of University of Chicago buildings and of the Columbian Exposition. Among the over 760 photographs of Frank Lloyd Wright's buildings are rare photos of the Robie House under construction and of the Midway Gardens. The collection of reproductions of Eastern art is also of particular interest; it includes works from the Islamic world, India, China and Japan. The Archive also has a small section of photographs of artists.

Organization

The mounted photographs are contained in boxes and located in Room JRL 420.

  1. The boxes are divided by CULTURAL TRADITION.  The collection has reproductions of works of the Islamic world, India, China, Japan, the West (this includes Europe, the Byzantine empire, the former USSR, and post-Colombian North America).
  2. The photographs are then arranged chronologically by TIME PERIOD.
  3. Each period is arranged by MEDIUM in the following order:  architecture, sculpture, painting, panel painting, mosaics, frescoes, prints, drawings, manuscript illumination, minor arts, photography.
  4. Within each medium the boxes are subdivided alphabetically by COUNTRY.
  5. The countries are then arranged alphabetically by ARTIST, SCHOOL or LOCATION (for some architecture and manuscripts).

A folio system, arranged in the same manner as above, is located at the end of the modern section.

Other large photographs of Renaissance, Baroque, and Modern Paintings and Drawings may be found in the filing cabinets in the South and West corners of the stacks.

Using the Photographs

The mounted photographs are located in the stacks in room JRL 420E, which is locked and accessible by appointment only. To make an appointment, please contact contact the Bibliographer for Art and Cinema or epsteinarchive@uchicago.edu.

If you need a photographic reproduction, contact the Bibliographer for Art and Cinema.

Access Information

By appointment: epsteinarchive@uchicago.edu