Sketchbooks: Turning the Pages at the Art Institute of Chicago

Artists have long used sketchbooks to jot down ideas and to work quickly outside their studios. This selection of Art Institute sketchbooks ranges from the eighteenth through the nineteenth centuries, and appears in order by artist name. The Cézanne, Redon and Weber books were standard issue for the late nineteenth-century, and all include an extra flap inside the front or back binding for holding a pencil.
  • Print this page
  • Share this collection on Facebook
  • Share this collection on Twitter
Christina Ramberg is one of the Chicago Imagists who exhibited in the 1960's and 1970's. Her notebook contains fragments and sketches of costumes and clothing that are referenced in her drawings and paintings as well as her personal notes and even a recipe for a vegetable and sprout medley.
Christina Ramberg is one of the Chicago Imagists who exhibited in the 1960's and 1970's. Her notebooks contains fragments and sketches of costumes and clothing that are referenced in her drawings and paintings as well as her personal notes.
Ed Flood, born and schooled in Chicago, exhibited in shows in the 1960s such as the Nonplussed Some. His sketchbook reflects his beautifully and obsessively crafted paintings and sculptures, and includes floral forms, ideas for objects and the typographic elements they are partially composed of, and figure drawings. Artwork © The Estate of Ed Flood.
Joseph Elmer Yoakum was an artist who started drawing in his seventies, creating inventive landscape drawings between the early 1960s and his death in 1972. Unlike most self-taught artists, Yoakum enjoyed a degree of success and attention while he was alive due to his association with the Chicago Imagists. Artists such as Roger Brown, Lori Gunn, Phil Hanson, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Christina Ramberg, Karl Wirsum, Ray Yoshida, and others avidly collected his drawings. Whitney Halstead, an art historian, artist, and professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, was the greatest collector and chronicler of Yoakum's work. Halstead entrusted four of Yoakum's five known sketchbooks to the Art Institute of Chicago. These books are titled Workbooks A through D, due to the high level of finish of the drawings. These four Workbooks join hundreds of single sheets gifted by Halstead, Yoshida, and others, making Chicago the largest repository of the artist's oeuvre.
Joseph Elmer Yoakum was an artist who started drawing in his seventies, creating inventive landscape drawings between the early 1960s and his death in 1972. Unlike most self-taught artists, Yoakum enjoyed a degree of success and attention while he was alive due to his association with the Chicago Imagists. Artists such as Roger Brown, Lori Gunn, Phil Hanson, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Christina Ramberg, Karl Wirsum, Ray Yoshida, and others avidly collected his drawings. Whitney Halstead, an art historian, artist, and professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, was the greatest collector and chronicler of Yoakum's work. Halstead entrusted four of Yoakum's five known sketchbooks to the Art Institute of Chicago. These books are titled Workbooks A through D, due to the high level of finish of the drawings. These four Workbooks join hundreds of single sheets gifted by Halstead, Yoshida, and others, making Chicago the largest repository of the artist's oeuvre.
Joseph Elmer Yoakum was an artist who started drawing in his seventies, creating inventive landscape drawings between the early 1960s and his death in 1972. Unlike most self-taught artists, Yoakum enjoyed a degree of success and attention while he was alive due to his association with the Chicago Imagists. Artists such as Roger Brown, Lori Gunn, Phil Hanson, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Christina Ramberg, Karl Wirsum, Ray Yoshida, and others avidly collected his drawings. Whitney Halstead, an art historian, artist, and professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, was the greatest collector and chronicler of Yoakum's work. Halstead entrusted four of Yoakum's five known sketchbooks to the Art Institute of Chicago. These books are titled Workbooks A through D, due to the high level of finish of the drawings. These four Workbooks join hundreds of single sheets gifted by Halstead, Yoshida, and others, making Chicago the largest repository of the artist's oeuvre.
Joseph Elmer Yoakum was an artist who started drawing in his seventies, creating inventive landscape drawings between the early 1960s and his death in 1972. Unlike most self-taught artists, Yoakum enjoyed a degree of success and attention while he was alive due to his association with the Chicago Imagists. Artists such as Roger Brown, Lori Gunn, Phil Hanson, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Christina Ramberg, Karl Wirsum, Ray Yoshida, and others avidly collected his drawings. Whitney Halstead, an art historian, artist, and professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, was the greatest collector and chronicler of Yoakum's work. Halstead entrusted four of Yoakum's five known sketchbooks to the Art Institute of Chicago. These books are titled Workbooks A through D, due to the high level of finish of the drawings. These four Workbooks join hundreds of single sheets gifted by Halstead, Yoshida, and others, making Chicago the largest repository of the artist's oeuvre.
Enigmatic and extraordinary, James Castle was a self-taught artist who was deaf and mute from birth, but created his own visual language through his drawings, books and three-dimensional constructions. Like many of his artworks, Untitled (Book), reacts to the graphic elements of found paper advertisements, which he liberally augmented with his trademark soot and spit ink drawings of nearby buildings and landscapes, and tied together with shoelaces.
African American sculptor Marion Perkins lived and worked in Chicago after moving there from Arkansas in 1916. Initially self taught, he had some training through the South Side Community Arts Center in the early 1940s, and also studied ceramics at Hull House. His public sculpture in stone and wood (which he initially displayed in-progress near the news stand he owned on the South Side) aimed at universally understandable imagery. He was a strong believer in racial equality and the need to alleviate African American poverty; seeing abstraction as elitist, he addressed these views in his art. Perkins began to receive commissions, and exhibited in juried exhibitions at the Art Institute throughout the 1940s and 1950s. The Art Institute received a gift of four Perkins sketchbooks from his family in 2010, a group that offers insight into his sources (including African masks), as well as including a variety of types of drawings. This one is predominantly composed of portrait heads with some sketches of religious scenes, as well as a page with three trial impressions of a woodcut of a mother and child.
In this colorful sketchbook, Neiman depicted the North Avenue Beach, bordered by Chicago’s soaring skyscrapers, among other scenes. Drawn in the same year that Neiman’s friend Hugh Hefner founded Playboy magazine, the artist seemed here to capture the sort of lifestyle embodied by the magazine.


Gabriel Jacques de Saint-Aubin's delicate but exuberantly filled sketchbook still retains the printed colored papers with which it was initially bound.

While we encourage personal discovery and interpretation of works of art in our care, the commentaries associated with the works in My Collections have not been reviewed or approved for accuracy or content and are expressly not endorsed by the Art Institute of Chicago.

View mobile website