Fine Arts


Image of metal sculpture, Icarus, by L. Brent Kington, 1981
Southern Illinois’ most well-known blacksmith-artist-teacher, Brent Kington (1934-2013), created unconventional works of art from blacksmithing for over 45 years while teaching at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Barack Obama

Image of Barack Obama, photograph, Dawoud Bey, 2007
Dawoud Bey
(b. 1953, Queens, NY)
Barack Obama
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
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


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. 

Portrait of Mr. S. Vaughan

Image of portrait of Mr. S. Vaughan, oil painting, Sheldon Peck, ca. 1845
Sheldon Peck
(1797-1868, b. Cornwall VT, d. Lombard IL)
Portrait of Mr. S. Vaughan
ca. 1845
oil on canvas
framed and glazed 1967.68/106, Museum purchase
Sheldon Peck moved from upstate New York to Babcock's Grove (present day Lombard, Illinois) in 1837, living with his wife, Harriet, in a covered wagon while he built his farm house. He farmed and raised sheep while also traveling the Illinois countryside painting portraits. Peck was a self-taught artist. His portraits follow many of the conventions of the 19th century, with broad flat areas of color and a stiff and starched formality. Peck would paint his sitter’s face in person and then finish the clothing and backgrounds at his home.

Miniature Portrait of Isaac V. W. Dutcher

Image of miniature portrait of Isaac V.W. Ducher, watercolor on ivory in engraved gold case, Phillip Oscar Jenkins, 1841
Phillip Oscar Jenkins
(1819-1982, b. Hardin, Kentucky, d. Washington DC)
Miniature Portrait of Isaac V. W. Dutcher
watercolor on ivory in engraved gold case height
1998.96, Illinois State Museum Society purchase 
This very fine miniature portrait is an example of a personal keepsake that could be carried or worn as jewelry as a memento of a friend or loved one in the days prior to photography. The artist, Philip Jenkins, was living in Kentucky at the time this portrait was thought to have been painted. The sitter, Isaac Dutcher, had recently moved to Quincy, Illinois, in 1838 from New York. 

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
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.


Image of Weathervane, metal sculpture, L.Brent Kington, 1977
L.Brent Kington
(1934-2013, b. Topeka KS, d. Carbondale IL)
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.


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