Teacher's Orientation Pages to:
Three Chicago Painters: Cast of Characters Gertrude Abercrombie, Emil Armin,
and Julia Thecla
The painting collection of the Illinois State Museum is
fortunate to contain a body of artworks by three painters
who worked in Chicago from the 1930s to the 1970s. We
chose to present these artists in this Art Web site because
are a strong part of the collection,
reflect the independence of Chicago artists of the
approached their subject matter in a unique way
The design of this sub-module will allow the museum to
add to the number of artists featured as time goes by.
Each of these artists has had an exhibit of their work at the Illinois State Museum. There are cata-
logs on Abercrombie and Thecla. For this online exhibit, the curators wanted to show a comparison
among the artists regarding their very personal treatments of similar subjects. The topics chosen
self-portraits (insight into individual people)
the use of space in compositions (how different artists handle one element of art)
the idea of canvas as a stage set (to explore one way painters may present narratives).
The purpose of showing just a few works is to encourage viewers to look in depth into them for
meaning and interpretation. In just these nine paintings, there is wealth of thought and discussion.
Emil Armin painted landscapes and people of the Chicago area. His work may resonate most
with viewers who live in or have visited this city.
Gertrude Abercrombie presented an image of herself in almost every one of her paintings;
yet she always refused to comment on their meaning.
Julia Thecla presented a dream world in many of her paintings, many of which featured her,
pets, and portraits of friends.
The questions accompanying the images just begin the conversation. We have provided a short list
of visual thinking questions in an offline activity for talking about art. It can be used with not only
this sub-module, but with any work of art. This activity is also a good one to use prior to a class tour
or a personal visit to a museum to prime viewers to look closely into works of art to which they are
drawn (not necessarily these same works of art). It can help prevent the museum burnout caused by
trying to look at every work of art in the museum on a single trip.