Chicago has provided to be a productive place for young artists since its early days and the late Edgar Miller was one of their number. Miller came to study at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago during World War I and he subsequently worked on hundreds of projects over the next five decades throughout the city and beyond.
His work was recently celebrated in an exquisite volume titled "Edgar Miller and the Handmade Home: Chicago's Forgotten Renaissance Man." The book highlights some of his work created for public housing projects, the Medinah Athletic Club, private homes, the Carl Street Studios in Old Town, and hundreds of murals, restaurant interiors, handmade postcards, and much more.
You can still see his work around Chicago and this short tour takes you to three places where you can see evidence of his tremendous talent and creative ingenuity.
Carl Street Studios
Located in Old Town, the Carl Street Studios complex started life as a a single mansion built during the 1880s. Over time, families left and artists began to renovate and modify the original mansion, along with adding new apartment buildings along the way. It was a work in progress when Miller joined his friend Sol Kogen to create a type of artist colony here.
Starting in 1927, they began to gut the original mansion and create their own series of studios, complete with novel mosaics, found objects, plaster reliefs, and more. While visitors can't enter the studios (they are private residences) they can wander along this corner of West Burton Place just off Wells St to experience a bit of the original charm from the sidewalk.
In Stained Glass, Knights of the Round Table Appear
During his life, Miller took on a range of commissions to provide a stable income for his growing family. One such commission was for a series of elaborate stained glass windows in the Medinah Athletic Club on Michigan Avenue. These gorgeous windows depict classic medieval scenes that were meant to complement the Gothic architecture of the King Arthur Foyer and Court designed by architect Walter Ahlschlager. Today this massive edifice is the InterContinental Chicago and visitors can wander up to the room to take a closer look at this piece which features jousters, bards, peasants, and of course, knights.
Segments of the Past: Glass Panels from Diana Court
As many of Miller's works were set in building interiors, it stands to reason that from time to time these structures would fall to the wrecking ball in the name of progress. Fortunately, some of these works remain intact and these remarkable glass panels from the long gone Michigan Square building are on display at the Art Institute of Chicago. The panels depict Diana, goddess of the hunt, and it's quite enjoyable to step close to see their various details. They can be found in the Grand Staircase area right near the main entrance, along with a wealth of other architectural fragments.