Academic journal article Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

Lorado Taft: The Chicago Years

Academic journal article Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

Lorado Taft: The Chicago Years

Article excerpt

Lorado Taft: The Chicago Years. By Allen Stuart Weller. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2014. Pp. xi, 360, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. Cloth, $39.95.)

horado Tafl: The Chicago Years by the late Allen Stuart Weller (and edited by Robert G. La France and Henry Adams with the assistance of Stephen P. Thomas) is a thorough investigation into the life of sculptor Lorado Taft. It is an exhaustive catalogue of his career as a studio artist and educator with extensive references to his commissioned artworks, published pieces, lectures, and personal letters woven together to cover fifty years of the artist's life. Weller chronicles shifts in style and attitude that Taft experienced towards art and modern life and argues that while Taft was a gifted, yet not particularly original artist, he was a revolutionary in the field of arts education and in his stance towards women and artists of color. Weller frequently uses primary sources to accompany his narrative, outlining Taft's private and public intentions.

Taft was trained in Paris in the Beaux-Arts style and favored that aesthetic early in his professional career. After returning to the United States, he rented a studio in Chicago, accepted a lectureship at the newly established Art Institute, and helped build their sculpture department. He worked extensively on the decorative program for the World's Columbian Exposition with well-known con temporary architects and artists. Around the turn of the century, Taft established art associations and studios where artists, poets, playwrights, and musicians col laborated on projects and exchanged ideas. His thoughts on religion, society, and art became less rigid at this time, and he slowly began to move away from his Beaux-Arts training. He was a pioneer in arts education, working with schools, universities, and public organizations to spread the message that every American should develop an appreciation for the arts. Taft transmitted his enthusiasm through lectures and publications in newspapers, magazines, and books. He col laborated with students on larger projects, and by the 1920s had established himself as one of the preeminent names in American sculpture. Taft never stopped cultivating his craft and dedication to the city beautiful movement. …

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