Modern Era (1917-present)

The state’s Modern Era has been one of continued growth and change. Following World War I and the nation’s greatest economic collapse, public works projects of the New Deal put people to work on civic projects, such as building roads and infrastructure, and brought history to life by protecting a number of historic places around the state. The Federal Arts Program of the W.P.A. paid artists to create paintings, prints, sculptures, and murals for civic beautification, pride, and capturing the moment. Beginning in 1941, the state’s agricultural and manufacturing sectors and the sacrifices of citizen-soldiers played an important role in making the United States a leader on the world stage.

Barack Obama

Image of Barack Obama, photograph, Dawoud Bey, 2007
Dawoud Bey
(b. 1953, Queens, NY)
Barack Obama
2007
Archival pigment print
2016.021.003, Gift of Chuck Thurow
Barack Obama served as the 44th President of the United States from 2009 to 2017. He was also the first African American to assume the presidency. Previously, Obama served in the Illinois State Senate from 1997 until 2004 and then as United States Senator from Illinois from 2005 to 2008.

Congressman Oscar de Priest

Image of Congressman Oscar de Priest, oil painting, Bernard Goss, 1963

Bernard Goss (1913-1966:  b. Sedalia, MS - d. Chicago, IL)

Congressman Oscar de Priest 1963

Oil on canvas

1971.005.211, Transfer from the Illinois State Historical Library

This is a portrait of Congressman Oscar de Priest (1871-1951), an outspoken critic of the segregation of minorities in government. De Priest was not the first African American to serve in congress, but he was the first in the 20th century and the single minority voice for three decades. De Priest understood that he represented not only his Chicago district but the entire black population of the United States. 

John Jones Fights for the Repeal of the Black Code

Image of John Jones Fights for the Repeal of the Black Code, oil painting, Alfred Jackson Tyler, 1963
Alfred Jackson Tyler
(1933-2011, b. Chicago IL, d. Chicago IL)
John Jones Fights for the Repeal of the Black Code
1963
oil on canvas
1971.5/208, property transfer from the State Historical Library
When Illinois entered the Union in 1818 as a free state, vestiges of slavery still existed, and African Americans lived under restrictive laws that limited their freedom. These laws, commonly called the Black Code, denied them the right to vote, assemble in groups, testify in court, or bear arms.

John Jones and His Wife Aid a Fugitive

Image of John Jones and his Wife Aid a Fugitive, oil painting, Alfred Jackson Tyler, 1963

Alfred Jackson Tyler

(1933-2011, b. Chicago IL, d. Chicago IL)

John Jones and his Wife Aid a Fugitive

1963

oil on canvas

1971.5/212, property transfer from the State Historical Library

John Jones arrived in Chicago with his wife, Mary Richardson, in 1845. He was a self-made man with no formal education who went on to develop a thriving tailoring business, invest in real estate, and by 1860, become one of the nation's wealthiest African Americans. In 1871, Jones was elected the first African American Commissioner for Cook County. 

Frank Pierson Richards

Image of General Grant on horseback, hand-carved and painted wood sculpture, Frank Pierson Richards, ca. 1880-1888
General Grant on Horseback
ca. 1880-1888
hand-carved and painted wood
Gift of Mr. & Mrs. Earl Richards, Springfield, Illinois
Frank P. Richards was a farmer living near Rochester, Illinois, who spent his evenings and winters carving. He quit farming and moved to Edinburg, Illinois, and eventually Springfield, Illinois, where he did odd jobs and became known as an inventor. 

Chicago River

Image of Chicago River, oil painting, Jean Crawford Adams, 1917
Jean Crawford Adams 
(1886-1972, b. Chicago IL, d. Oak Park IL)
Chicago River
1917
oil on canvas
1928.060.700643, museum purchase, Illinois Academy of Fine Art
In 1914, at age 28, Jean Crawford Adams began her training at the Art Institute of Chicago, continued her studies at the Provincetown School of Art in 1920, and finished in the 1920s in Paris. Throughout her career, Adams painted still-life and landscapes, acceptable subjects for a woman artist of her day, but her scenes of Chicago are what memorialize her.

Weathervane

Image of Weathervane, metal sculpture, L.Brent Kington, 1977
L.Brent Kington
(1934-2013, b. Topeka KS, d. Carbondale IL)
Weathervane
1977
forged steel
1977.063.005, museum purchase  
Trained as a silversmith and self-taught as a blacksmith, L. Brent Kington was a distinguished American master who is celebrated for reintroducing the ancient craft of blacksmithing to the modern world of fine art. In 1961, Kington came to Carbondale to lead the metals program at Southern Illinois University, where he offered the first studio iron classes in an academic setting anywhere in the country.

Measure Me by My Dreams

Image of The College of the Hills, Herod, Illinois, watercolor painting by Penrod Centurion, 1935.
The College in the Hills, Herod, Illinois
 
Penrod Centurion  
(1905- ?, b. Germany) 
Measure Me By My Dreams 
1935 
watercolor on paper 
1973.037.551, Gift of Miss Louise Borchelt
Young college graduates, largely from Northwestern University in Evanston, came to southernmost Illinois in 1933 and established a college just outside of Harrisburg. The College in the Hills was an experimental liberal arts college offering courses in history, economics, sociology, psychology, and art for the surrounding communities. Its mission, as stated in a newspaper announcement, was "to develop students capable of living in a modern world of new social and economic values.

Chromorfia Constructiva

Image of watercolor painting by Penrod Centurion, Chromorfia Constructiva #49-8-12-1, 1949.
Penrod Centurion
(1905 - ?, b. Germany) 
Chromorfia Constructiva #49-8-12-1
1949  Watercolor
Few abstract paintings are known to exist from this once prolific, German-born artist who immigrated to Chicago in 1926 and lived in Evanston, Illinois, until 1933. In 1934, Penrod Centurion, also known as “Penny Cent,” moved to southern Illinois to teach art at the College in the Hills, an experimental college near Harrisburg. In 1937, he received a stipend award from the Solomon Guggenheim Foundation in New York City for the Museum of Non-Objective Painting.

Tornado

Image of Robert Larson painting, Tornado.
Illinois' predominately flat landscape leaves us with ample sky to contemplate, making us all forecasters of coming storms. Nothing is more indicative of the powerful and unpredictable forces of weather than tornadoes, a not uncommon sight on our horizons.

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