The majority of the Museum’s painting and works-on-paper holdings consist of portraits of national political and military figures from the late-eighteenth to early-twentieth centuries, as well as prominent Chicagoans of the mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries. The portrait collection is nationally renowned. The collection is also strong in works depicting Chicago’s earliest days and urban landscapes, with scenes from early Chicago (1830–70), the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, the 1933–34 A Century of Progress International Exposition, the built environment of Chicago in the 1920s–1940s, and urban life in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
The Museum’s sculpture holdings consist primarily of portrait busts and relief sculptures of prominent Chicagoans and national figures of the nineteenth century, as well as smaller decorative sculptures, life and death masks, and memorial plaques. The Paintings and Sculpture holdings include approximately 140 works depicting Abraham Lincoln.
The Museum also documents the history of Chicago’s vibrant artistic community with work by prominent Chicago and Illinois artists, as well as work by individuals pursuing art as students, professionals, or hobbyists.