• IdentificationPUBLIC "-//The Art Institute of Chicago::Ryerson and Burnham Archives//TEXT(US::ICA::1997.6::A. JAMES SPEYER COLLECTION, 1931-1996 (BULK 1947-1974))//EN" "ica199706.xml"
  • TitleSpeyer, A. James, (1913-1986) Collection, 1931-1996 (bulk 1947-1974)
  • PublisherRyerson and Burnham Archives, Ryerson and Burnham Libraries, The Art Institute of Chicago,
  • Language
    • English
    • English.
  • Date
    • 1931-1996
    • (bulk 1947-1974)
  • Physical Description
    • 1 linear foot (4 boxes), 2 oversize portfolios, and flatfile materials
    • Holograph papers, typescript papers,printed papers, architectural reprographic prints, graphite drawings and ink drawings on paper and vellum,black and white photographic prints, color photographic prints, black and white negatives, color slides and a Umatic videocassette.
  • RepositoryRyerson and Burnham Archives, Ryerson and Burnham Libraries, The Art Institute of Chicago 111 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60603-6110 (312) 443-7292 rbarchives@artic.edu http://www.artic.edu/aic/libraries/rbarchives/rbarchives.html
  • AbstractDrawings, photographs, and printed papers documenting the architectural and curatorial work of Chicago architect A. James Speyer. Also included are candid photographs and some material collected as a result of Speyer's associations with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, Illinois.
  • OriginationSpeyer, A. James, 1913-1986
  • LocationThe collection is housed in the Ryerson and Burnham Libraries' on-site stacks.

A. James Speyer was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1913 to painter and sculptor Tillie S. Speyer and Alexander C. Speyer, an investment banker. Tillie Speyer's involvement in the Pittsburgh arts community, her private collection of art and furniture, and her love of travel and cultural institutions were all significant influences on the young Speyer. Convinced that the field of architecture would be a fair balance between the career of business that his father desired for him and the career of an artist that he aspired to, Speyer enrolled in the Carnegie Institute of Technology and received a B.S. in architecture in 1934. However, the prevailing Beaux-Arts climate of pre-World War II American architectural schools left Speyer disillusioned and ripe for change. Speyer studied for three years at London's Chelsea Polytechnic School and later at the Sorbonne in Paris. Though uninspired by these institutions, Speyer did find inspiration in Europe's landscapes and museums, and in the ethos of the developing Modernist movement.

Deciding that he had better...really learn something, Speyer returned to the US in 1937, accepting a position as chief designer for a new product line at the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Speyer's increased involvement in modernism and the evolving International School was facilitated by friendships with such figures as Edgar Kaufmann, Jr., whose father had commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater; American architect Philip Johnson; László Gabor, a Hungarian architect from the Wiener Werkstatte (Vienna Workshop); and Alfred H. Barr and John McAndrew, both of New York City's Museum of Modern Art. It was through these connections that Speyer met Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius. Though already accepted to study architecture under Gropius at Harvard University, Speyer withdrew immediately upon hearing of Mies van der Rohe's imminent arrival in Chicago. Impressed by Speyer's design sketches, paintings, or perhaps just his great enthusiasm, Mies quickly accepted Speyer as his first graduate student at the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1939.

Speyer completed his graduate degree under Mies before being inducted into the U.S. Army in 1941. After five years serving in the United States, the South Pacific, and Korea, Speyer returned to Chicago to join the faculty of the Illinois Institute of Technology, where he taught until 1961. Speyer's return also marked the formation of his own architectural practice, which he maintained until 1957. Mies's influence, in terms of both architecture and pedagogy, continued to guide Speyer's career for years to come. Speyer's employees, as well as those of his fellow colleagues at IIT, consisted primarily of former Mies students; Jacques Brownson, George Danforth, William Dunlap, and Arthur Takeuchi all worked in Speyer's office for a time. The firm's work, consisting entirely of residential designs and renovations, also fell squarely within the Miesian idiom of glass and steel. Speyer's work during this period included the Stanley G. Harris Residence in Glencoe, IL (1947); the Jerome Apt Residence in Pittsburgh, PA (1953); the Benjamin Rose Residence in Highland Park, IL (1953); and the Herbert Greenwald Apartment Remodeling, Chicago, IL (1957).

As the 1950s drew to a close, Speyer engaged in a renewed pursuit of artistic and scholarly activities. From 1955 to 1957, he acted as the Chicago correspondent for Artnews magazine and from 1957 to 1960 served as visiting professor in architecture at the National University of Athens, Greece. Returning to Chicago in 1961, Speyer was appointed the first curator of Twentieth Century Painting and Sculpture at The Art Institute of Chicago, a position he held until his death in 1986. As a curator, Speyer gained perhaps even more recognition for his exhibitions that he ever had for his buildings. His 1962 installation of the Art Institute's newly completed Morton Wing and the 1968 Mies van der Rohe retrospective are both notable examples of Speyer's exhibition work. Though officially retired from architectural practice, Speyer continued to build for himself and his family throughout the 1960s. These projects included a summer house complex in Hydra, Greece (c.1957-1969), a home for his mother in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (1963), and the renovation of Speyer's own Pearson Street apartment in Chicago (1965). Speyer continued to design and install exhibitions at The Art Institute of Chicago until his death in 1986.

[See: Oral History of A. James Speyer. Interviewed by Pauline Saliga. Chicago: Department of Architecture, The Art Institute of Chicago, 1990.]

This collection consists primarily of architectural drawings, photographs, and printed papers documenting the work of A. James Speyer in his varied roles of architect, curator, and educator. The bulk of the collection resides in Series I, Series II, and Series V, which consist of materials that document Speyer's architectural and curatorial works. Series III and IV gather ancillary material related to the work of his teacher and mentor, Mies van der Rohe, and other IIT graduates, as well as some candid photographs, biographical information, and miscellany.

Series I, Architectural Projects, contains documentation for all of Speyer's built residential commissions, all executed remodeling projects, as well as some unexecuted projects. These works range from Speyer's first commission in 1947 to the renovation of his Greek summer homes, which were completed sometime in the late 1960s. Photographs of design drawings, exteriors, and interiors constitute the majority of these projects files. Design and working drawings are also available for several of Speyer's large residential commissions, such as the Benjamin Rose Residence in Highland Park, IL.

Series II, Exhibitions, which contains predominantly photographs, is comprised of materials related to art and architecture exhibitions designed or curated by Speyer and one exhibition on Speyer. Exhibitions represented in this series include an early IIT student exhibition (c.1950), other pre-Art Institute installations (Giacometti at the Arts Club, Chicago, 1953; the Good Design at the Merchandise Mart, Chicago, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1954); and selections from Speyer's quarter-century as curator of Twentieth Century Painting and Sculpture at The Art Institute of Chicago. Other materials in this series include a printed brochure and a small, but notable set of original graphite sketches for the 1954 Good Design exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art.

Series III, Miscellaneous Photographs, contains candid and portrait photographs of Speyer, photographs of various Mies van der Rohe projects and furniture, and projects designed or associated with other IIT graduates such as George Danforth, Arthur Takeuchi, and Gene R. Summers. The candids, taken between 1939 and 1986 include an interesting set of snapshots taken at Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, Bear Run, PA, during a visit with Edgar Kaufmann Jr. in the summer of 1948. The Mies project photographs consist of various building drawings, construction, and built views, along with a large group of furniture drawings and built views. Also included is a group of black and white snapshots of some of Mies's original furniture (possibly from Walter Peterhans), including two Parson-style rosewood coffee tables, a Barcelona chair, a Tugendhat X Table, and the leather and steel desk designed for architect Philip Johnson.

Series IV, Papers, contains one letter, a notebook, a manuscript competition entry by Arthur Takeuchi and Louis Johnson, and biographical materials in the form of newspaper clippings.

Series V, Gallerie Darthea Speyer, consists of photographs, brochures, catalogues, and some drawings relating to the exhibitions organized by Speyer's sister, Darthea, at her gallery in Paris.

Series VI, Videocassettes, contains one original 3/4" Umatic videocassette. This tape contains a 1979 educational short film entitled Museum, which is comprised of interviews with various curators at The Art Institute of Chicago.

Series VII, Negatives, contains original negatives for several prints located in previous series.

SERIES I: ARCHITECTURAL PROJECTS. Arranged alphabetically by project name, then according to form. Within each subseries, items are arranged chronologically, except photographs, which are arranged according to view.

SERIES II: EXHIBITIONS. Arranged chronologically, then according to form. Within each subseries, items are arranged chronologically, except photographs, which are arranged according to view.

SERIES III: MISCELLANEOUS PHOTOGRAPHS. Organized into four subseries: Personal, Mies van der Rohe Buildings, Mies van der Rohe Furniture, and Miscellaneous. Personal photographs are arranged chronologically, while the other subseries are organized alphabetically by project name.

SERIES IV: PAPERS. Organized into three subseries: Correspondence, Manuscripts, and printed papers. Subseries are further arranged chronologically.

SERIES V: GALERIE DARTHEA SPEYER. Arranged alphabetically by artist's name, then according to form, and, finally, by date.

SERIES VI: VIDEOCASSETTES. This series is restricted.

SERIES VII: NEGATIVES. This series is restricted.

  • Names
    • Speyer, A. James
    • Speyer, A. James--Archives
    • Mies van der Rohe, Ludwig, 1886-1969
    • Galerie Darthea Speyer (Paris, France)--Archives
    • Illinois Institute of Technology
    • Art Institute of Chicago. Dept. of Twentieth Century Painting and Sculpture
  • Subject
    • Architects--Illinois--Chicago--Archives
    • Museum curators--Illinois--Chicago--Archives
    • Architecture--Illinois--Chicago Metropolitan Area--20th century--Sources
    • Museum exhibits--Illinois--Chicago--History--Sources








Additional photographs and paper documentation related to A. James Speyer are held in the Curatorial records and Historic Photographs collections in the Institutional Archives.

Additional photographs and paper documentation related to A. James Speyer are held in the Curatorial records and Historic Photographs collections in the Institutional Archives.

Additional photographs and paper documentation related to A. James Speyer are held in the Curatorial records and Historic Photographs collections in the Institutional Archives.

Portions of this collection are restricted; wherever possible, surrogate copies are provided for patron use, as noted in the series listings. The remainder of collection may be used by qualified readers in the Reading Room of the Ryerson and Burnham Libraries at The Art Institute of Chicago. Collections maintained on-site are available for patron use without prior arrangement or appointment. Collections maintained in off-site storage will be retrieved with advance notification; please consult the Archivist for the current retrieval schedule. For further information, consult http://www.artic.edu/aic/libraries/rbarchives/rbarchaccess.html

The Art Institute of Chicago is providing access to the materials in the Libraries' collections solely for noncommercial educational and research purposes. The unauthorized use, including, but not limited to, publication of the materials without the prior written permission of the Art Institute is strictly prohibited. All inquiries regarding permission to publish should be submitted in writing to the Archivist, Ryerson and Burnham Archives, The Art Institute of Chicago. In addition to permission from the Art Institute, permission of the copyright owner (if not the Art Institute) and/or any holder of other rights (such as publicity and/or privacy rights) may also be required for reproduction, publication, distribution, and other uses. Responsibility for making an independent legal assessment of any item and securing any necessary permissions rests with the persons desiring to publish the item. The Art Institute makes no warranties as to the accuracy of the materials or their fitness for a particular purpose.

A. James Speyer Collection, Ryerson and Burnham Archives, The Art Institute of Chicago.

The collection was a gift from Anstiss and Ronald Krueck, and the Richard Nickel Committee to the Ryerson and Burnham Archives in 1997. Subsequent additions to the collection were received from Marian Harris, George Danforth and Ronald Krueck in 1998 and 1999; Anstiss and Ronald Krueck in 2005; and Frances Rose in 2006.

This collection was processed by Ryerson and Burnham staff in 2000. It was revised and expanded by Nathaniel Parks in December 2003, November 2008 and August 2013, and Valerie Higgins in October 2011.