Overlooking the Reader’s
Services desk at the library is the oil painting Composers by William S. Schwartz. An opera-singing Jewish immigrant
from Russia, Schwartz shocked audiences and critics alike with his striking
colors, innovations in abstraction, and groundbreaking genre cross-pollinations. Learn more about this key figure in Chicago’s early 20th
century art scene at a program by Alex Cornacchia, author of William S. Schwartz: Color and Coloratura
(Madron Press). An exhibition on Schwartz, which will include the library’s
painting, will be on display at Madron Gallery in Chicago September 20-November
Copies of William S. Schwartz: Color and Coloratura are available for purchase through Madron Gallery. The library also owns a copy. Madron Gallery is located at 100 W. North Avenue in Chicago's River North neighborhood.
Image credit: William S. Schwartz, Galena, Illinois, c.1935, watercolor and gouache on paper, 17 1/2 x 24 inches (Photograph courtesy of Madron Gallery)
More about the library's painting: Composers is part of Schwartz's Americana Series, a group of four paintings featuring composers, poets, painters, and scientists. It depicts four musicians who were Schwartz's contemporaries: Victor Herbert, Reginald DeKoven, George Whitefield Chadwick, and Edward MacDowell. This oil on canvas dates to 1934, a year before the establishment of the WPA. However, a WPA stamp on the reverse of the work suggests the painting was entered as part of the relief measure after completion. Composers was secured for the library from the Public Works Art Project through the efforts of library board member Mrs. E. J. Sherwin. When the work debuted in the library's previous building in September 1934, The Glencoe News said the painting hit "a modern note in the reference room." The painting will be rehung in the library when the Madron Gallery exhibition concludes.