August 3, 1858 - December 14, 1937.

Cultural philanthropist, and art patron.

Born in Zanesville, Ohio, Kate Buckingham became known as "Chicago's Grandest Spinster". Living a privileged and sheltered life, she was intensely interested in the world of the arts. Her association with the Art Institute began about 1889, when her mother passed away, and Kate, at age 32, took charge of the family's great wealth, which extended into banking, steel, and real estate.

Her earliest recorded purchases and later gifts to the museum were a selection of snuff bottles and miniature figures in jade, lapis, amber, and porcelain, bought to please her disabled sister. From this a fine collection of Chinese bronzes, porcelains, and Japanese prints grew. She also ventured into gothic and medieval art. Kate intensified her role of art patron after the death of her brother Clarence in 1913 and sister Lucy Maud in 1920.

Between 1921 and 1938 an exquisite collection of over 400 Chinese ritual bronzes was gradually donated to the Art Institute in memory of her sister Lucy Maud. These formed the foundation of the Art Institute's Asian Art Collection.

Kate Buckingham donated her own collection of medieval sculpture, tapestries, and decorative arts to Art Institute in 1924, where they were installed in a "gothic period room," named in Buckingham's honor. In 1925 she donated her brother's collection of thousands of Japanese prints to the Art Institute.

Her best-known gift to the citizens of Chicago was Buckingham Fountain, memorializing her brother Clarence and designed by architect Edward H. Bennett of the Chicago firm of Bennett, Parsons and Frost. The fountain was dedicated on August 26, 1927 and cost $750,000. She also established a trust fund to maintain it.

Kate Buckingham died in 1937, at age 79, leaving behind a tremendous legacy of cultural philanthropy.

  1. Frederick William Gookin, Catalog of a Memorial Exhibition of Japanese Color Prints: Collection of Clarence Buckingham. The Art Institute of Chicago, 1915.
  2. Kate Buckingham, c.1930.
  3. Daniel Catton Rich, The Buckingham Medieval Collection. Chicago: R.R. Donnelley, 1945.
  4. Bill of Sale for Gothic Tapestry from Jacques Seligman & Co. Inc. New York to Miss Kate S. Buckingham, April 6th, 1922.
  5. Gothic Room fireplace. Art Institute of Chicago, c.1927.
  6. Photograph of Buckingham Fountain upon completion. Henry Fuermann & Sons, Chicago, 1927. Also excerpt from Chicago Tribune article by James O'Donnell Bennett, September 4th, 1927.
  7. Frederick William Gookin, Catalog of a Memorial Exhibition of Prints from The Clarence Buckingham Collection. Art Institute of Chicago, 1915.
  8. Gothic Room. Art Institute of Chicago, c.1927.

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