July 5–September 5, 2011
Ryerson & Burnham Libraries

This exhibition showcases archival items linked to 8 women who were made significant contributions to the Art Institute, or who had a lifelong association with the museum or school. Three curators (Bessie Bennett, Katharine Kuh and Christa Mayer Thurman), three donors (Kate Buckingham, Annie Swan Coburn and Margaret Day Blake), one teacher/author (Helen Gardner) and one artist (Georgia O’Keeffe) put their stamp on this institution, often without much fanfare or public recognition. Bessie Bennettt was the first female curator in a major museum in the United States, Helen Gardner wrote with her “Art Through The Ages” the first comprehensive art historical handbook, Annie Swan Coburn enriched the museum’s permanent collection with a fabulous gift of first rate Impressionist paintings. Each of these women has a story to tell, of dedication, hardship, perseverance and success.

Art Institute students working on a mural painting, 1918. Institutional Archives, The Art Institute of Chicago.