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Interesting facts about the two bronze lions that guard the Art Institute of Chicago..

Updated on May 18, 2014
Bronze lions at the Michigan Avenue entrance of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Bronze lions at the Michigan Avenue entrance of the Art Institute of Chicago. | Source

What's in a name?

Did you know the two bronze lions that stand guard at the Michigan Avenue entrance of the Art Institute of Chicago are not identical and they were given unofficial "names," by their sculptor Edward Kemeys?

Kemeys was a world renowned sculptor known for his pieces depicting animals in nature. He aptly named the aforementioned lions "Defiance" and "Prowl" to signify their poses: the lion to the south stands with an "attitude of defiance," while the lion to the north has a stance that suggests its "on the prowl.".

Edward Kemeys originally created the lions for the World's Columbia Exposition; they were two of six that were located at the entrance of the Fine Arts Palace, now the Museum of Science and Industry.

The Art Institute of Chicago

The Field Family Connection

Commissioned by Mrs. Henry Field, renowned sculptor Edward Kemeys selected two of his lions sculptures featured at the Columbian Exposition and recast both in bronze for use at the west entrance of Art Institute of Chicago. Upon completion, Kemeys bronze lion sculptures were then presented to the Art Institute in 1893 as a gift from Mrs. Henry Field.

Mr. Henry Field was a renowned art collector, philanthropist, a founding member of the Art Institute of Chicago's Board of Trustees and he was the younger brother of the Department store magnate Marshall Field.

The same year Mrs. Henry Field also donated a highly valued collection of oil paintings to the Art Institute as a tribute to her late husband. The Fields art collection was comprised of nearly of four hundred rare works of art. Within the Field art collection were French masterpieces that were viewed as the most important French art holdings of the 19th century. The Fields generous gift also contained key works by the Barbizon school of landscape and genre painters and much more.

As a special condition of her gift, Mrs. Field helped to design a lavish gallery to accommodate the highly prized art collection which is said to have replicated the Fields private home gallery and featured a Louse Comfort Tiffany art glass ceiling . The gallery would be named the Henry Field Memorial Gallery. However, in 1933 and 1934, the museum galleries were rearranged, with artwork grouped according to periods and styles and would no longer be organized by collection. As a result Mr. Henry Fields Memorial Gallery was disassembled but was located exactly where Gallery 216 is today.

Mr. and Mrs. Henry Field's prominent Chicago family surname also graces the world renowned Field Museum. Stay tuned for Interesting Facts about the Field Museum.....


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