Ellen Lanyon passed away on the evening of October 7, 2013, most unexpectedly, at age 86, as she was returning from Cambridge, England, where she had been for the prior week, working on a series of new prints. Prior to her time in Cambridge, Ellen traveled to Cornwall, England, the home of her ancestry with which she felt a strong connection. With her family, she visited the cemetery where her Lanyon great-great grandparents are buried and other places where she had spent time early in her artistic career as a Fulbright scholar.
Lanyon has been an icon of the Chicago school for more than 60 years, painting in a way that harkens to both formalism and the realms of dreams and symbolism. Her works involve the most fanciful of still-lifes one could ever imagine, such as, the replication of intricate objects, like a small ceramic humidor in the shape of a frog smoking a pipe that first belonged to her grandfather, and the incorporation of natural elements in fantastical settings. Lanyon said that she felt she was a magician through her paintings, one “who can transform flowers into fire, create the animate out of the inanimate, and utilize osmosis and gravity to create illusion.” And she did through items of nostalgia, rich color pallets, and dream-like scenarios that brought her scenes to life.
Lanyon made the transition to New York City as her primary residence and studio in the late-1970s, but her heart and home has always been in Chicago.
She has had more than 75 solo exhibitions and 11 museum exhibitions, including three major traveling retrospectives. Her work is in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Union League Club, Chicago; numerous private collections in the Chicago area; and other major museums and collections in the United States and abroad.
Education: Honorary Doctorate, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 2007 The Courtauld Institute University of London, UK MFA, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA, 1950 BFA, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago,1948
Lanyon has taught painting at several institutions including the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Cooper Union and the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Lanyon received several Armstrong Prize Awards and a Logan Prize from the Art Institute of Chicago, Fulbright Study Grant, Cassandra Foundation Grant, Herewood Lester Cook Foundation Award, two National Endowment for the Arts Visual Artists Awards, Florsheim Art Foundation Grant, several Yaddo Fellowships, Ossabaw Island Project Fellowship, and two Purchase Awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She was elected to the Union League Club, Chicago; Century Association, New York City; and the National Academy of Design.
Farhat Art Museum Collection, Beirut, Lebanon
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach, FL
Beach Museum, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS
Block Museum, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
Boston Public Library, Boston, MA
Brauer Museum of Fine Arts, Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, IN
Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY
Cleveland Center for the Arts, Cleveland, OH
Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH
Denver Art Museum, Denver, OH
Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, IA
Galleria Comunale D’Arte Contemporanea, Arezzo, Italy
Grand Rapids Museum of Art, Grand Rapids, MI
Illinois State Museum, Springfield, IL
Institute of International Education, London, England
Krannert Museum, University of Illinois, Champaign, IL
Library of Congress, Washington, DC
Madison Art Center, Madison, WI
Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL
National Academy, New York, NY
National Museum of American Art, Washington, DC
National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC
New Jersey State Museum, Trenton, NJ
New York Public Library, New York, NY
Palm Springs Museum, Palm Springs, CA
University of Iowa Museum of Art, Iowa City, IA
Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT
Washington County Museum of Art Hagerstown, MD
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN
Williams College Museum, Williamstown, MA