They also sat on the floor and leaned against chairs and dressers in Annie Swan Coburn’s apartment at the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago. She 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 The Poet’s Garden, whose brighter color scheme was not in keeping with the sobriety of many of her other pieces, typically rested comfortably under the bed.
Look Inside Coburn’s Suite at the Blackstone Hotel
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 an exhibition of her paintings 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. (We even found a spot there for the Van Gogh.)
Learn more about Annie Coburn and the other the generous donors who helped grow our extraordinary collection of works by Monet in our online scholarly catalogue Monet Paintings and Drawings at the Art Institute of Chicago.
—Paul Jones, associate director of communications, and Bart Ryckbosch, Glasser and Rosenthal Family Archivist