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Untitled (Republic Building, Cornice and Windows)

A work made of gelatin silver print.

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  • A work made of gelatin silver print.

Date:

c. 1955, printed 1973

Artist:

Richard Nickel (American, 1928–1972)
printed by Patrice Grimbert (French, 1947–1974)

About this artwork

While studying photography at the Institute of Design (ID), Richard Nickel joined the Sullivan Project, a photographic survey led by photographer Aaron Siskind that documented the architecture of Louis Sullivan. The project was completed in 1954, but Nickel continued photographing Sullivan’s work on his own, finding his calling in the identification, documentation, and preservation of these endangered works of art. Sullivan was revered as the father of the skyscraper and known for his use of architectural ornament. But by the 1950s urban renewal projects prompted the demolition of his most celebrated structures, including the Garrick Theater and the Stock Exchange Building.

For nearly two decades, Nickel campaigned to save Sullivan’s works, and when those efforts failed, he worked to rescue their ornament—the elaborate, nature-inspired decoration, frequently inspired by nature, that adorned both the interiors and exteriors of Sullivan’s buildings. Nickel mourned the disappearance of a city he admired, warning that Chicago could move toward anonymity or, worse, become “a city of contrasts: The superficial glitter of the new mixed with the slum of the old.” Nickel’s photographs let the architecture take center stage, even if his documentation was later partly overshadowed by his efforts to rescue surviving structures and fragments. One such attempt, in the Chicago Stock Exchange Building, cost him his life in 1972. The Sun-Times wrote: “Richard Nickel has become a true martyr to the cause of architectural preservation. He is irreplaceable, and Chicago architecture has lost its truest champion.”

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Photography

Artist

Richard Nickel

Title

Untitled (Republic Building, Cornice and Windows)

Origin

United States

Date

Made 1950–1960

Medium

Gelatin silver print

Inscriptions

Unmarked recto; inscribed verso, on mount, upper left, in graphite: "55"; verso, on mount, lower left, in graphite: "J-56/63"

Dimensions

45.4 × 35.4 cm (image); 50.4 × 40.3 cm (paper); 71.2 × 55.7 cm (mount)

Credit Line

Photography Department Exhibition funds

Reference Number

1975.444

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.

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