Bessie Bennett

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Artist Details

  • Bessie
  • Bennett
  • Bennett
  • n/a
  • n/a
  • March 7, 1879
  • Cincinnati, Ohio
  • March 23, 1939
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • next door to the Kalo Shop's downtown location
  • Jeweler, Metalworker, Painter
  • School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
    September 1895: she enrolled in the design curriculum of Louis J. Millet, graduating first in her class in 1898
  • October 1907, when assistant to the Director, she toured France by automobile for two months studying French faience, wood carvings, tapestries and ecclesiastical sculpture.
  • 1907: 6th Annual Exhibition of Original Designs for Decoration and Examples of Art Crafts Having Distinct Artistic Merit. Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

    July 5–September 5, 2011: Making History: Women of the Art Institute, Ryerson & Burnham Libraries, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
  • Byckbosch, Bart H. “Bessie Bennett” in Schultz and Hast, Women Building Chicago, 1790-1990: A Biographical Dictionary. Indiana University Press, 2001.
  • Atlan Club

    Society of Western Artists
  • 1907: the Art Institute Arts and Crafts medal at the Annual Exhibition of Applied Arts

    1919: Officier de l'Instruction Publique medal awarded by the French Government in recognition of Bennett's efforts to promote French design and decorative arts
  • Ryerson Library, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
  • teacher, administrator, curator, lecturer

    She began teaching decorative design courses at the Art Institute. Simultaneously she was working for the museum as assistant to the Director of Textiles and Decorative Objects.

    In December 1914 she was named Curator of Decorative Art at the Art Institute of Chicago, the first woman to become a curator at a major museum in the United States.

    1918: served as judge for miscellaneous category of art and for architecture at State Fair

  • Wikipedia page

    summary of exhibit at Ryerson Library, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
  • Bennett gained fame as an innovative exhibition designer, employing the newest display and lighting techniques for decorative art objects. She also was a frequent lecturer all over the country, speaking on subjects as wide ranging as "Industrial Art in the U.S.," "Historical Silver," and "The Ancient Art of Weaving." During WWI she curated an exhibition on French design and was decorated by the French government for her efforts in 1919. Similarly, in 1927 she arranged an outstanding exhibition of Swedish decorative arts, and in 1928 King Gustav V of Sweden presented her with the Golden Wasa Medal, one of the highest distinctions given to a Non-Swedish national.

    During her 39-year career at the Art Institute of Chicago Bennett sought to add to the museum's decorative arts collections and to increase the exhibition space for them. The new Allerton Wing, exclusively built for the Decorative Arts Department, was nearing completion at the time of her death in 1939.

    Raised in wealthy surroundings, she moved comfortably in Chicago's highest financial and social circles. Kate Buckingham, Martin Ryerson, and Robert Allerton sought her advice and expertise in developing and expanding their own personal collections. Gradually most of these private collections were donated to the Art Institute.

    Bessie Bennett was the last stereotypical connoisseur-curator of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and at the same time, an inspiring example to other women who were gradually moving into positions of responsibility in America's cultural institutions.