Florence Arquin

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Artist Details

  • Florence
  • Arquin
  • Arquin
  • Samuel Williams
  • June 19, 1900
  • New York, New York
  • 1974
  • New York, New York
  • Russian
  • about 1918: Chicago, Illinois
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Lithographer, Painter-Acrylic, Photographer, Printmaker, Watercolorist
  • 1933: graduated with BAE degree, in art from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and education at the University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
    Mexico National University, Mexico City, Mexico (met Frieda Kahlo and Diego Rivera while studying here)
    Laguna Beach, California
    ?? Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
  • early 1940s: Mexico

    1945-1951: Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador (as Director of the Kodachrome Slide Project, US Department of State) - photographed life and culture, lectured at cultural institutions
  • 1934-1941: Chicago Society of Artists, Chicago and New York exhibits (10 times)

    1934-1942: Annual Exhibition of Works by Chicago and Vicinity Artists, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois (5 times)

    1935-1937/8: Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City, Missouri

    1935, 1937, 1939: International Water Color Exhibitions, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

    1936, 1937, 1939: Water Color Annual, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

    1938, 1941: Riverside Museum

    1942: Illinois State Museum

    1943: Biblioteca Benjamin Franklin, University of Mexico, Mexico City, Mexico (solo)

    1945-1946: David Porter Gallery (traveling exhibition)
  • Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

    Lansing Public Library, Lansing, Illinois

    Library of Congress, Washington, DC

    Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California

    National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

  • Arquin, Florence. Diego Rivera: The Shaping of an Artist, 1899-1921. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1971. Arquin, Florence. "Contemporary Popular Art in Haiti" in Bulletin of the Pan American Union, no. 82, 1948.  pp. 10-20. Arquin, Florence. "Reviving Peruvian Crafts" in BPAU, pp. 622-626,6illus. Washington, D. C., 1947. Arquin, Florence. "Kodachrome Slides of Latin America," in Hispania, vol. 26, no. 3 (August 1945), pp. 377-379.
  • in high school, medal for drawing
  • Archives of American Art, Florence Arquin Papers, 1923-1985, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC Arquin Slide Collection, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida Florence Arquin Collection, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois  
  • 1933-1936: teacher, Flossmoor public schools, Flossmoor, Illinois

    1936: art director, Libertyville High School, Libertyville, Illinois

    1935-1939: Supervisor of Easel Painting/Assistant to the Director of Federal Art Project, Illinois?

    1938-1939: in charge of public relations and art teaching for Federal Art Project, Illinois

    1939: School of the Art Institute of Chicago, developing education programs for secondary school students

    1942: wrote (with Lydia Powel) "The Art Museum Comes to the School,"

    1944-1945: Director of Kodachrome Slide Project, American Council on Education, Washington, DC


    photographer for educational films, of Frieda Kahlo and Diego Rivera at La Casa Azul

    scholar of Latin American studies

    writer (reviews and criticisms)
  • Biography on Bernard Friedman Collection website

    Biography and interview by C.J. Bulliett on Illinois Historical Art Project website

  • Painter, photographer, educator, writer, and critic, Florence Arquin (1900-1974) was active in Chicago, Illinois. She was widely known for her expertise in the field of Latin American Studies and had a close relationship with Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. From 1935 to 1939 she worked as administrator for the Federal Art Project in Illinois and joined the Art Institute of Chicago in 1939 to develop education programs aimed at secondary school students.

    Florence Arquin was born in 1900 in New York City. She graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago where she studied art education. After, she undertook post graduate studies at the National University of Mexico. In the early 1940s Arquin traveled to Mexico to paint, where she developed friendships with Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. In 1943 a solo exhibition of her paintings at the Benjamin Franklin Library in Mexico City was highly praised by Rivera in the catalog introduction. Arquin's book Diego Rivera: The Shaping of an Artist, 1889-1921 about the artist's formative years, was published by the University of Oklahoma Press in 1971.

    Arquin traveled extensively in South America, the United States, and Europe throughout her life. From 1945 to 1951 she traveled to Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador as Director of the Kodachrome Slide Project under the sponsorship of the Department of State. Arquin photographed aspects of life and culture and gave lectures at bi-national cultural institutions throughout those countries and in the United States. The project was part of an effort to provide educational agencies with visual aids in the field of Latin American studies.

    Under another State Department grant, duplicates of Arquin's photographs were then made available for sale to institutions and individuals interested in the field of Latin American studies. The Metropolitan Museum of Art assumed responsibility for publicity, sale, and distribution of the slides from 1950 to 1955. Although few sales originated through the sales office of the Museum, Arquin managed to generate sales through her own efforts. In 1961 she applied for another grant to take control of the original slides and to add slides that she had taken on other visits to Latin America, Morocco, Spain, Portugal, and other European countries since then.

    Florence Arquin died in 1974.


    Arquin started studies at age 18 at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York, New York, doing special work in bacteriology and serology; her inspiration for this study was her lineage of Russian physicians and chemists as well as the raging influenza epidemic. She worked alongside experienced colleagues in the laboratories of Columbia University and Bellevue Hospital, contracting the disease herself and experimenting on her own germs. She was transferred to the University of Chicago under Prof. Jordan, then to the Illinois Social Hygiene Clinic, and finally to the Chicago Lying-in Hospital. Her health broke after three years of this work. Recuperating in Laguna Beach, California, she discovered an artists' colony and recalling high school ambitions of being an artist, took up brushes and paints until a telegram arrived with the news that her brother had died of spinal meningitis, contracted from a patient he was treating in Chicago. Their mother forbade Florence from working in hospitals again.

    Needing a new profession, she enrolled in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, graduating in 1933.

    Arquin was a close friend of Frieda Kahlo and Diego Rivera, photographing Kahlo.