Frederick W. Gookin and the Clarence S. Buckingham Collection of Japanese Prints
Frederick W. Gookin (1853 - 1936), a lifelong Chicagoan, served as the first curator of the Clarence S. Buckingham Collection of Japanese prints at the Art Institute of Chicago. The Buckingham Collection formed the core of the Art Institute of Chicago’s world-class holdings of Japanese woodblock prints. In addition to his work with the Buckingham family, Gookin assisted the development and growth of many American collectors of Japanese art by cataloging collections, advising purchases, promoting Japanese art through lectures and publications, and by introducing friends and contacts to dealers and scholars. At age 50, he left his employment at the Northwestern National Bank (the Buckingham family business) to serve as a freelance art advisor on a full-time basis. His role as advisor to Kate Buckingham facilitated his appointment as the first curator of the Clarence S. Buckingham collection at the Art Institute.
During Gookin’s lifetime, the number of museums devoted to the arts and sciences grew significantly in the U.S. Gookin cataloged the best private and public collections in the U.S. including the Art Institute of Chicago, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Library, the Spaulding collection, and the collection of Charles Freer. This thesis examines the methodologies Gookin developed and employed as curator and adviser to the Buckinghams and at the Art Institute. Methodologies that resulted in standardized and formal care-taking practices for American private and institutional collections of Japanese woodblock prints.
Increased professional curatorial opportunities provided people from multiple social strata and without the means to assemble massive personal collections the opportunity to engage directly, and care for, first-rate collections. As the keeper of the Clarence S. Buckingham Collection, Gookin had complete access to one of the world’s best collections of Japanese woodblock prints. In his role as advisor to Kate Buckingham, he continued to grow the collection with works from artists he admired. Although Gookin was one of the first North American collectors of prints and other Japanese items (his collection was given to the Art Institute by his daughter after his death), he did not have the financial means to expand his own collection as did many of his wealthier friends. Despite Gookin’s lack of formal study and language skills, his reputation as a Japanese woodblock print scholar and expert extended nationally and internationally. His inter-personal skills and intense admiration for his own (westernized, to be sure) view of Japanese aesthetics contributed to his ability to transform a hobby often restricted to the wealthy into a professional career.
Anne Puotinen has enjoyed pursuing her MAAH degree. She will continue to pursue research projects and raise her two daughters.
Thesis Advisor: Kymberly N. Pinder, Associate Professor and Graduate Director, Art History, Theory, and Criticism
Thesis Reader: Debra Mancoff, Adjunct Associate Professor; Art History, Theory, and Criticism
Charles Stuckey, Adjunct Associate Professor; Art History, Theory, and Criticism