Annie Swan Coburn, 1856-1932

  • Annie-Swan-Coburn-WWP

Woman Category: ArtsWoman Tags: Art Collector and Chicago Metro Area Women

  • HerStory

    American art collector, patron, and philanthrope. Donated her fortune and art collection of more than 100 pieces to various art institutes.

    Annie Swan Coburn was born in Fremont, Illinois, and by the age of 15, she moved with her family to Chicago. At 24, she married Larned Coburn, a patent lawyer and the co-founder of the Union League Club of Chicago. When her husband died in 1910, Coburn moved to an apartment in the Blackstone Hotel, where she lived for more than 20 years.
    At that time, she began collecting art, especially by French Impressionist painters such as Renoir, Monet, and van Gogh. She exhibited her collection in her hotel suite, in every available space she had. She had drawers loaded with fine art, masterpieces stacked on the chairs, and famous artwork leaning against the walls. Curators and reporters from all over the world came to the hotel to see her art collection.
    Upon her death, she donated her fortune of $500,000 and hundreds of artworks to various art institutes, including the Fogg Museum at Harvard University, Smith College, and the Art Institute of Chicago, where her contribution became the core of its Impressionist painting collection.

    More Interesting Anecdotes:

    • In 2017, a scandal involving one of the famous paintings she donated to the Art Institue of Chicago, “Two Sisters (On the Terrace)” by Renoir, when the US President Donald Trump claimed he has the original painting. He was proved wrong.
    • She used Edgar Degas’ “Uncle and Niece” like a fire screen.
  • One of Her Landmarks

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  • Photo credit - Courtesy, Institutional Archives, The Art Institute of Chicago. File IM047762

  • Citations and Additional References:
    An article on The New York Times website.
    Wikipedia page.