Louis H. Sullivan was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on September 3, 1856. His formal education was erratic, but its scope and variety laid the foundation for Sullivan’s monumental presence on the American urban landscape. In 1872, at the age of sixteen, Sullivan enrolled at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study architecture. Withdrawing after two semesters, Sullivan briefly became an apprentice in the office of Philadelphia architect Frank Furness before following his family to Chicago in November 1873. With architects in demand after the devastating 1871 Chicago fire, Sullivan quickly found work with William LeBaron Jenney, considered the father of the modern skyscraper. By the summer of 1874, Sullivan, following the lead of other young architects of the time, enrolled at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris to study European art and architecture.
In 1879, Sullivan entered the Chicago office of architect and engineer Dankmar Adler, becoming his full partner in 1883. Together, Adler and Sullivan designed nearly two hundred residential, commercial, religious, and mixed-use buildings, primarily in the Midwest. Adler and Sullivan were highly regarded not only for their robustly modern and iconoclastic architecture—which illustrated Sullivan's dictum "form follows function"—but for Sullivan's complex and organic ornament. Their best-known buildings include the Auditorium Building in Chicago (1886-1890); the Wainwright building in Saint Louis, Missouri (1886-1890); the Schiller Building (1891) and the Stock Exchange (1893-1894) buildings, both in Chicago; and the Guaranty building in Buffalo, New York (1894-1895). It was also during this time that Sullivan became the leibermeister of Frank Lloyd Wright, who worked for Adler and Sullivan from 1888 to 1893.
Following the dissolution of Adler and Sullivan's formal partnership in 1895, Sullivan's life was increasingly troubled and turbulent. After completing a final addition to Chicago's Schlesinger and Mayer Store, now Carson Pirie Scott, in 1904, his commissions became sparse and modest in budget. During the last decades of his life, Sullivan's most important architectural work was a series of small but exquisitely detailed banks in rural communities throughout the Midwest. He devoted much of his remaining time to writing about architecture and philosophy, producing such works as The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered (1896), Kindergarten Chats (1902), and The Autobiography of an Idea (1924). Toward the end of his life, Sullivan was commissioned by the Burnham Library of The Art Institute of Chicago to produce a large portfolio of his intricate and delicate drawings, which was published as A System of Architectural Ornament, According With A Philosophy Of Man's Powers, 1924 in 1924. Sullivan died in Chicago on April 14, 1924. In 1944, the American Institute of Architects posthumously awarded its Gold Medal to Sullivan.
Louis Sullivan Archive - Ryerson & Burnham Libraries
Louis Sullivan Collection - Department of Architecture & Design
Louis Sullivan Collection
Holdings consist of architectural and non-architectural drawings—including design sketches, design drawings, and working drawings— and architectural fragments. These materials originate from numerous sources including Louis H. Sullivan, D. Adler and Co., Adler and Sullivan, various successor firms as well as from associates and followers of Sullivan.
12 hours 32 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago #TBT The Art Institute's main building was originally constructed for the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. Our famous lions were added later that year and have been "guarding" the museum ever since.
1 day 15 hours ago The Art Institute of Chicago CLOSING IN LESS THAN TWO WEEKS—See #VanGoghsBedrooms before the show ends May 10.
This unprecedented exhibition unites all three versions of Van Gogh’s Bedroom paintings for the first time in North America, offering an innovative yet intimate look at one of the most beloved and often-misunderstood artists of all time.
1 day 17 hours ago The Art Institute of Chicago COMING IN MAY—Introduce your toddlers and crawlers to the museum through Story Time in the Galleries.
Families with children ages 18 months to 3 years are invited to celebrate some of our favorite children's picture books. Look, listen, and enjoy a story among the art in our galleries every Tuesday in May.