Historic Collections: Arthur Jerome Eddy

Learn more about Arthur Jerome Eddy, a collector whose prescient interest in modernism and avant-garde art benefited the Art Institute and the city of Chicago.



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To a generation of Chicagoans, Arthur Jerome Eddy (1859-1920) was known as "the man that Whistler painted." Today he is remembered for the daring purchases he made in 1913 at the Armory Show, the controversial exhibition of Modern art that debuted in New York and was then shown at The Art Institute of Chicago. Eddy not only purchased but championed Modern art through lectures and in publications, the best known of which was Cubists and Post-Impressionism. In 1931, 11 years after Eddy’s death, the Art Institute acquired 23 objects from his collection, naming them the Arthur Jerome Eddy Memorial Collection.

Eddy’s collecting interests spanned the breadth of early-20th-century avant-garde painting and printmaking. He was especially attracted to the abstract work of Russian-born Vasily Kandinsky and American abstract painters such as Arthur Dove and Albert Bloch. Eddy is often grouped with other pioneer collectors of Modern art, including Alfred Stieglitz, John Quinn, Albert C. Barnes, and Walter Arensberg, though as a Chicago lawyer he had less disposable income than his millionaire counterparts in the East. His desire to educate people about Modern art surpassed that of even Stieglitz and Quinn. In Cubists and Post-Impressionism, Eddy explained the latest trends in painting and sculpture, including illustrations of works from his collection and excerpts from his correspondence with Modern artists. In the case of Kandinsky and Dove, this is important commentary that might have otherwise been lost.