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Charley's Eye, 1940, by Nathan Lerner

Charley’s Eye, 1940, by Nathan Lerner. Courtesy of The Art Institute of Chicago: Edward Byron Smith and John Bross Fund.


Taken by Design: Photographs from the Institute of Design, Chicago, 1937–1971

December 7, 2002–March 2, 2003

Chicago’s legendary Institute of Design began in the 1930s as an outpost of experimental art education based on principles established by Germany’s famed Bauhaus school. One of the most important schools of photography in twentieth-century America, the Institute of Design (or ID) was the home to such photographic luminaries as László Moholy-Nagy, Harry Callahan, and Aaron Siskind, and the inspiration to students who would become some of the best fine art photographers in the country. It also educated generations of photographers who would in turn become teachers, thus insuring a lasting legacy of ID principles.

The pictures that were created by the teachers and students there set new standards for photographic exploration, using photography’s own means to expand its possibilities. Despite its illustrious past, however, the significant contribution of the Institute of Design to the history of American photography remains largely unexplored and under-recognized. To date, no in-depth, scholarly exhibition or catalogue has examined the contributions the school made to photography in its formative and peak years.

In addition to important works by Moholy-Nagy, Callahan, and Siskind, the exhibition will feature the work of Barbara Crane, Yasuhiro Ishimoto, Joseph Jachna, Kenneth Josephson, Gyorgy Kepes, Nathan Lerner, Ray K. Metzker, Richard Nickel, Arthur Siegel, Art Sinsabaugh, and others.

  • The Art Institute of Chicago: March 2–May 12, 2002
  • San Francisco Museum of Modern Art: July 20–October 20, 2002
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art: December 7, 2002–March 2, 2003

Main Building


This exhibition was organized by The Art Institute of Chicago and has been made possible by LaSalle Bank.


The exhibition is coordinated in Philadelphia by Katherine Ware, Curator of Photographs, Philadelphia Museum of Art. It was organized by David Travis, Curator of Photography, and Elizabeth Siegel, Assistant Curator of Photography, The Art Institute of Chicago.

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