CHICAGO, IL (September 2014)- Elmhurst Art Museum has opened the first museum exhibition in more than forty years of works by Richard Koppe (1916-1973), reintroducing an American modernist and one of the early stalwarts of abstraction in Chicago. Well-respected as a painter, sculptor, printmaker and designer, Koppe exhibited his work widely during his lifetime, yet is now largely unknown.

Including 70 rarely seen paintings, prints and drawings, EAM’s exhibition highlights Koppe’s signature canvases from the mid-20th century-from his playful compositions of stylized fish and birds to his distinctive versions of abstract expressionism and hard-edge abstraction. Organized in cooperation with the University of Illinois at Chicago’s College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts, Richard Koppe was curated by EAM’s Chief Curator Staci Boris and is now on view at Elmhurst Art Museum through January 11, 2015.  Elmhurst Art Museum is located just 14 miles from downtown Chicago and is open 10pm – 5pm. Tuesday-Thursday and Saturday, 10am – 8pm Friday, and 12-5pm on Sunday. A list of exhibition-related public programs follows at the end of this release. For more information please visit


Richard Koppe, Untitled, 1949. Oil on canvas. UIC Campus Collection. Photo by James Prinz.


Combining aspects of cubism and surrealism, Koppe explored line, color, composition and space, producing works that are both playful and intricate. A special section including photographs, studies, textiles, tableware and related objects is dedicated to the artist’s celebrated murals and designs for Chicago’s famous Well of the Sea restaurant in 1948. Koppe’s rigorous experimentation with form, mastery of diverse media and interest in design reflect his experience as a student of transplanted European modernists like László Moholy-Nagy and Alexander Archipenko at Chicago’s New Bauhaus in the late 1930s. Koppe went on to promote the modernist program as Head of Visual Design and Fine Arts at the Institute of Design (ID) at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) and later as Professor of Art at UIC.   


This exhibition is largely drawn from UIC’s Campus Collection, to which Koppe’s estate donated nearly one thousand of his works shortly after his death. Koppe’s modernist practice and legacy are of particular interest to EAM as we continue to explore art, architecture and design of the mid-20th century. Inspired by the museum’s McCormick House, designed in 1952 by Mies van der Rohe, our goal is to present and study artists of this era such as Koppe, ripe for rediscovery and new scholarship. Koppe’s New Bauhaus training and tenure at IIT overlapped with Mies’ tenure as Director of the School of Architecture; this connection provides a greater understanding of Mies’ concurrent architectural practice and contextualizes the work of other mid-century designers often shown in the McCormick House.



Richard Koppe, Untitled, 1947. Tempera on paper board. UIC Campus Collection. Photo by James Prinz.

Richard Koppe, Untitled, nd. Crayon and chalk on paper. UIC Campus Collection. Photo by James Prinz.

Public Programs 

Friday, October 10, 12pm 

Tour of Richard Koppe by EAM Chief Curator Staci Boris

Join Staci Boris, curator of the Richard Koppe exhibition, to learn more about this important artist’s life and the different phases of his artistic development.

Saturday, November 8, 1 to 4pm

Mid-Century Modern Roadshow

Bring your collectible mid-century objects and art to EAM’s Mid-Century Modern Roadshow to learn more about your modern treasures and what they may be worth! First enjoy an overview of 20th Century Design by Richard Wright, President and Founder of Wright Auction, Chicago. Then share your items with specialists in the field of modern design and decorative arts including Don Schmaltz and Jared Peterson from Circa Modern and Susan Klein Bagdade, director of Richard Norton Gallery and an expert in modern art and costume jewelry. This program is free with Museum Admission. 


Friday, November 14, 6:30pm

A Playful Abstraction: The Mid-Century Art of Richard Koppe, Harry Bertoia, Alexander Calder. A Talk by Lynne Warren, Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago  

Lynne Warren, who curated the MCA’s acclaimed exhibition Alexander Calder and Contemporary Art: Form, Balance, Joy, explores the sense of playfulness and joy found in the works of three artists whose paintings and sculptures embody midtwentieth century American modernism. Calder’s delightful mobiles, Bertoia’s joyful sound sculptures and Koppe’s playful stylized fish and birds are among the works under discussion that are guaranteed to bring a smile.

Friday, December 12, 6:30 pm

Book Discussion: The Third Coast: When Chicago Built the American Dream by Thomas Dyja

Read Chicago native Thomas Dyja’s critically acclaimed history of Chicago at mid-century, featuring many of the incredible personalities that shaped American culture, such as Mahalia Jackson, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Sun Ra, Simone de Beauvoir, Nelson Algren, Gwendolyn Brooks, Studs Turkel, Mies van der Rohe and Mayor Richard J. Daley. Dyja recreates the story of the city in its postwar prime and explains its profound impact on modern America.  This dynamic book provides a rich context for the mid-century works of Richard Koppe. Discussion led by Elmhurst Public Library staff and held in EAM’s McCormick House.


Elmhurst Art Museum, located just 14 miles from downtown Chicago and one block from the Elmhurst Union Pacific West Metra Station, is the cultural center of DuPage County and showcases the visual arts of our time. In addition to presenting exhibitions of work by distinguished regional, national and international artists, the Museum’s Education Center and architecturally significant facility–encompassing Mies van der Rohe’s McCormick House–enrich people’s lives by deepening their knowledge of art, architecture and design, and increasing understanding of the relevance of visual art in our society. Elmhurst Art Museum is a recipient of the Chicago AIA Regional Architecture Award and was nominated for a National Distinguished Building Award for Architectural Excellence.

Museum hours are 10am-5pm Tuesday-Thursday and Saturday, 10am-8pm Friday, and 12-5pm Sunday. The Museum is closed on Mondays. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for students and seniors, and children under 5 are free. Admission is free on Fridays.
Please visit for more information.