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Black-and-white photograph of six paintings arranged in a room, leaning against or on a small table and chairs. Monet's "Water Lily Pond" hangs between two windows at center.

Many, Many Monets: The Collection of Annie Swan Coburn

From the Archives


Before being hung on the walls of the museum, many paintings first hung on the walls of private homes.

In the case of Annie Swan Coburn, they also sat on the floor and leaned against chairs and dressers in her apartment at the Blackstone Hotel. She moved had moved there after the death of her husband in 1910, about the same time that she started to collect art in earnest.

As her collection grew, reporters and curators from around the world marveled over the amount, quality, and variety of art that she contrived to hang, stash, and prop up in her suite. This included several works by Claude Monet—such as Water Lily Pond, Cliff Walk at Pourville, and The Beach at Sainte-Adresse—that you’ll see on view in Monet and Chicago. Some works, however, remained stored out of sight; Van Gogh’s Poet’s Garden, whose brighter color scheme was not in keeping with the sobriety of many of her other pieces, rested comfortably under the bed.

Black-and-white portrait photograph of a light-skinned woman in a dark hat and fur.

Annie Swan Coburn, 1930

Coburn’s donation of 70 works from the late 19th and early 20th centuries shaped the Art Institute’s identity, with the “Coburn Renoirs” constituting the core of the museum’s holdings of Impressionist paintings. Daniel Catton Rich, the museum’s director from 1938 to 1958, organized the exhibition of her collection at the museum in 1932. According to Rich, Coburn possessed “a remarkable ability to select outstanding paintings which have a true significance in the history of art.” These include works by such artists as Édouard Manet, Paul Cezanne, Eva Gonzalès, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Camille Pissarro, many of whose works now grace our gallery walls.

And luckily, we managed to find the perfect spot—on a wall—for the Van Gogh.

Spend some time exploring the Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Larned Coburn Memorial Collection.


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