Ellen Lanyon

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Ellen Lanyon (December 21, 1926 – October 7, 2013) was a painter and printmaker from Chicago, Illinois.[1] She was educated at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the University of Iowa and the Courtauld Institute. Her works are in the permanent collections of many major American museums.


Lanyon was born in Chicago to Howard and Ellen Lanyon. As a child she visited the "Midget Village" at the Chicago World's Fair in 1933, a rather surreal experience that had a strong impression on her as an artist.[2] She attended Hyde Park High School and during this time held a part-time job as an artist in the foundry where her father worked, drawing machine parts. She credits her careful rendering of line to this experience.[3] In 1948, she completed her BFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. That same year she married classmate and fellow artist Roland Ginzel. Lanyon subsequently competed her MFA at the University of Iowa in 1950 and did postgraduate work at The Courtauld Institute of Art in London, UK while on a Fulbright Fellowship.


Lanyon's art has been characterized as Surrealist or Magical Realist. She sometimes uses the word "dreamscape" to describe her works.[4] Lanyon's early works (late 1950s to the 1960s) included portraits of relatives and the rooms they inhabited. Later she focused more on depicting objects from her collection of curios, many of which were inherited from relatives, such as a tobacco jar which once belonged to her grandfather. The jar, which is shaped like a toad wearing a red waistcoat, appears in several of her works, as do many other reptiles, insects, and birds. In 1976, Lanyon received a commission from the Department of the Interior to work in the Everglades, which, she says "awakened [her] to the environmental crisis" and led to more art with a heavy focus on flora and fauna.[5] She has had over seventy-five solo exhibitions, eleven museum exhibitions including three major traveling retrospectives. Her work is in the collections of the Art Institute and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the Brooklyn Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Museum of American Art, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Walker Art Center, the Milwaukee Museum of Art, and the Wadsworth Atheneum, among others. Lanyon has also taught art at several institutions including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Cooper Union and the School of Visual Arts.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Chicago painter Ellen Lanyon dies at 86". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2013-12-02. 
  2. ^ Lanyon, Ellen (1999). Ellen Lanyon: transformations, selected works from 1971-1999. Washington, D.C.: National Museum of Women in the Arts. pp. 33–34. ISBN 9780940979420. 
  3. ^ Sandler, Irving (2011). Ellen Lanyon & Philip Pearlstein: objects/objectivity. Chicago: Valerie Carberry Gallery. p. 5. ISBN 9780981597362. 
  4. ^ Lanyon, Ellen (1987). Strange games: a twenty-five year retrospective. Urbana, Ill.: Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. p. 4. 
  5. ^ "Ellen Lanyon artist statement". Retrieved 12 April 2013. 

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