Distinguished Artist Program


In 1997, at the recommendation of the Art Committee, the Union League Club of Chicago established the Distinguished Artists program. The purpose of the program is to honor select Chicago-area artists for their contributions to both the visual arts and the community. In 2002, the Club extended the program to include authors and musicians. Internationally known, the artists who have been inducted into the program choose to make Chicago their home and continue to contribute to the cultural well-being and world-class status of our community. Distinguished Artists are honored at the Beaux-Arts Celebration, a biennial event held in January at the Union League Club. Click here to listen to a podcast from "After Hours" featuring Rick Kogan interviewing Club member and 2014 Beaux-Arts Chair Marsha Goldstein.

Phyllis Bramson


Springtime Story (Woman Lit by Fireflies)
Mixed media and found objects on canvas, 68 x 43 inches
Gift of the artist in honor of Jim and Judy Gillespie

Phyllis Bramson is celebrated for her whimsical paintings that explore the romantic relationship between men and women, the folly of love and desire, and the melancholy of loss. Her paintings depict theatrical fantasy worlds of people and enchanting creatures frolicking in playful romantic activity. Bramson employs elements of kitsch and cartoon, realism, pattern and decoration to create compositions that often include collage and found objects. Her work references Indian and Persian art, French Rococo painting, and paintings of Chinese pleasure gardens.

Exhibiting widely in Chicago and beyond in more than 300 solo and group shows, Bramson enjoyed a retrospective at the Renaissance Society and exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago Cultural Center as well as at the Smithsonian and Corcoran museums in Washington D.C. Her work is collected by Chicago’s prominent museums—the Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois State Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, the Smart Museum of Art, among many others. Bramson has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, the Illinois Arts Council, and Anonymous Was a Woman Foundation.

Bramson holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Illinois and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Wisconsin Madison. For more than 20 years, she taught painting at University of Illinois at Chicago, where she is Professor Emerita.

Anne Wilson


Whack and Plop, animation stills from Errant Behaviors video/sound installation

Color photographs, archival ink on paper
Gift of the artist to the Union League Club

Anne Wilson is a pioneering visual artist who transforms ordinary materials—table linen, lace, hair, thread, glass, wire—into conceptual sculptural installations, performance pieces, DVD stop motion animations, and collaborative community projects. She reinterprets traditional practices of fiber art and textile processe—stitching, crocheting, knotting, knitting, and weaving—into other media to address themes of time, loss, and private and social ritual. Wilson employs meticulous hand-made textile construction and technique to explore the aesthetic and conceptual relationship between textiles and the built environment, issues of labor and production, industry, and social collaboration.

Wilson enjoys a distinguished exhibition history of more than 200 solo and group exhibitions at important museums and venues world-wide. Her art is collected by the most prestigious museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit Institute of Arts, Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, Japan, among others. She is the recipient of awards and grants from Artadia, the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Illinois Arts Council.

She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Cranbrook Academy of Art and her Master of Fine Arts from California College of the Arts. Wilson is a Professor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she has taught since 1979.

Dawoud Bey


Archival pigment print, 40 x 30 inches
Gift of the Artist

Dawoud Bey (b. 1953) is celebrated for his engaging portraits—large-scale color photographs—of America’s youth and other ordinary or overlooked subjects who challenge stereotypes of class and race. Working with a large format view camera, Bey gets close to his subjects, collaborating with the sitter, to carefully construct a portrait that reveals the sitter’s identity, individuality, and ultimately their humanity.

Hailing from Queens, New York, Bey has had numerous exhibitions worldwide since his first one-person exhibition in 1979 at the Studio Museum in Harlem. The Walker Art Center organized a mid-career retrospective, Dawoud Bey: Portraits 1975–1995, that traveled throughout the U.S. and Europe. In 1992, Bey began collaborating with museums and young people to give adolescents a voice within art practice and cultural institutions; Class Pictures: Photographs by Dawoud Bey traveled to museums throughout the U.S. (2007–2011). In 2008, he made photographs for American Character: A Photographic Journey, commissioned by USA Network.

Bey’s photographs are collected by museums worldwide, including: the Art Institute of Chicago; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Museum of Modern Art; the Detroit Institute of Art; and the National Portrait Gallery, London. He holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Yale University. Bey has taught for over thirty years and is currently Distinguished College Artist and Associate Professor of Art at Columbia College Chicago, where he has taught since 1998.


William Conger



oil on linen, 70 x 74 inches
Gift of the Artist in Honor of Robert A. and C. Florence Conger

William Conger (b. 1937) is critically acclaimed for his abstract paintings that often allude to his own experiences or memories, and that, while nonrepresentational, also seem familiar in their allusions to Chicago’s Lake, neighborhoods, and history. For 50 years Conger has painted a body of work that has become a visual poem of Chicago.

For five decades, Conger has participated in numerous one-person exhibitions at every important cultural institution throughout Illinois including the Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Arts Club of Chicago, Renaissance Society, Hyde Park Art Center, and the Mary and Leigh Block Museum at Northwestern University. For over 25 years he has exhibited at Roy Boyd Gallery. In 2008, the Chicago Cultural Center presented a monumental 50-year retrospective William Conger: Paintings, 1958–2008. His art is collected by major institutions throughout Illinois and the U.S.

Born in Dixon, Illinois, Conger attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of New Mexico and received his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Chicago. His teaching career began in 1966 at Rock Valley College, Rockford, he then served on the faculty at DePaul University (1971–1984) before joining Northwestern University (1985) as Professor and Chair of the Department of Art Theory and Practice, where he is now Professor Emeritus.


Robert Lostutter


Wahnes Parotia

Graphite on canvas, 21 x 29 inches
Gift of the Artist

Robert Lostutter (b. 1939) is critically acclaimed for his exquisitely rendered watercolors of exotic, hybrid bird-men. In 2006, the Chicago Tribune named Lostutter one of the Chicagoans of the Year for his accomplishments. His artwork is in the collections of many major institutions, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C.

Originally from Kansas, Lostutter studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and, although not a member of the Hairy Who, was part of the Chicago Imagist group that emerged from the School. Long interested in tropical birds and plants, he began to make watercolors of bird-men after traveling to Mexico in the mid-1970s. These fantastic, exotic creatures often have an ambiguous gaze that creates a sense of tension and features vivid colors.

In 2006, Lostutter had a solo exhibition at the Herron School of Art and Design in Indianapolis and at the Chicago Cultural Center. He has had many solo exhibitions at such venues as Northern Illinois University, the Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, Carrie Secrist Gallery, and Phyllis Kind Gallery, among others. Lostutter has also participated in group shows at the Union League Club; Landfall Press, Chicago; the Mary and Leigh Block Gallery at Northwestern University; the Jonson Gallery at the University of New Mexico; and the Art Institute of Chicago.

James Valerio


Night Fires

Oil on canvas, 92 x 100 inches

Chicago native James Valerio (b. 1938) is one of the country’s foremost realist painters. He is known for his large-scale photo-realist paintings that typically have surreal, dream-like elements and for his meticulously rendered drawings that feature detailed surface textures and delicate shading. His art is in the collections of illustrious institutions such as the Art Institute of Chicago; the Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art; and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Valerio is a Professor of Art in the Department of Art Theory and Practice at Northwestern University, where he has taught since 1985. He is a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, earning both his bachelor’s and master’s of fine arts degrees there. Valerio previously was on the faculty at the University of California, Los Angeles. He first gained national recognition in 1979, when his painting, included in The Big Still-Life at the Allan Frumkin Gallery in New York, was praised as an important photo-realist work.

Valerio has participated in numerous exhibitions including at the Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa; the Art Institute of Chicago; the American Embassy in The Hague, Netherlands; the Cleveland Museum of Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Solo exhibitions include shows at the George Adams Gallery, New York; the University of Iowa Museum of Art, Iowa City; the Delaware Art Museum; and Greenville County Museum of Art, South Carolina.


Barbara Crane


Inner Circles

Archival inkjet print on Hahnemühle photo rag paper, 39 x 27 inches
Gift of the Artist

Barbara Crane (b. 1928) has explored photography as a vehicle for creative expression for nearly 60 years. She is a prolific artist who continues to experiment with the photographic medium, often pushing it beyond documentary realism to expressive abstraction. A graduate student of photography at Chicago’s famed Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology in the mid-1960s, Crane pursued and personalized the I.D.’s experimental aesthetic in both her black-and-white and color photographs. She has experimented with repetition, multiple exposure, montage, image sequences, grids, scrolls, and large murals. Crane continues to work in many formats and materials ranging from the intimate to the large scale and utilizing such diverse processes as platinum-palladium, Polaroid, image transfer, gelatin silver, and digital.

A Chicago native, Crane studied at Mills College in California, and completed her bachelor’s degree in art history at New York University. She began teaching photography in 1964, including 28 years as a Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; she was appointed Professor Emeritus in 1995. Crane has had six retrospective exhibitions, most recently her 60-year retrospective Challenging Vision at the Chicago Cultural Center and Amon Carter Museum, and over 75 one-person exhibitions since 1966, and more than 200 group exhibitions. Crane’s artwork is included in numerous public and private collections, and she has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and a Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship.


Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle



Digital video transferred to DVD, 4 minutes
Gift of the Artist and Max Protech Gallery, New York, to the Union League Boys

and Girls Clubs to be displayed at the Union League Club Boys and Girls Barreto Club

Born in Madrid, Spain, multi-media artist Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle (b. 1961) was raised in Bogotá, Colombia and Chicago. He is a graduate of Williams College and of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he received a Master’s of Fine Arts in 1989. A Professor in the Art Department at the University of Chicago, Manglano-Ovalle has worked in a wide range of media, including sculpture, film, sound, photography, and public art. Underlying his diverse body of work is the artist’s consistent examination of subjects as diverse as technology, how urban racial identity is constructed, immigration and the global impact of social, political, environmental, and scientific systems.

Manglano-Ovalle has created public art projects in Chicago, San Antonio, and Miami, and founded Street-Level Youth Media, a non-profit community arts organization for Chicago’s youth. In 1993, he participated in a Chicago program, Culture into Action, and worked with members of Latino gangs to create video that projected onto the streets.

Manglano-Ovalle has exhibited internationally, participating in the 2000 Whitney Biennial, the 1998 São Paulo Biennial in Brazil, and Documenta XII in Kassel, Germany (2007). He received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship as well as grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Neighborhood Arts Program of the City of Chicago, and the Illinois Arts Council.


Michiko Itatani


Untitled, from the series Viable Elevation V-5
Oil on canvas, 72 x 60 x 4 inches
Gift of the artist

For over 30 years, Michiko Itatani (b. 1948) has made both abstract and figurative paintings that blend her Japanese heritage and American life and echo her bicultural background, frequently featuring unrelated and even dissonant elements. Her early paintings were abstract, geometric, monochromatic, and featured grid-shapes comprised of thin lines. She was one of the first Chicago artists to move beyond the rectangular canvas to employ polygonal shaped canvases as well as multiple canvases. In the 1980s she began to include figures tumbling and twisting in an unidentified space. Her most recent art reflects her interest in coming to terms with what she describes as “two parallel fictions based on the human desire to reach out into the mental and physical space beyond our reach and the other looking in.”

Originally intent on becoming a writer, Michiko Itatani studied literature and philosophy at Kobe Jogakuin University, in her native Japan. She moved to Chicago in the early 1970s and enrolled at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she received her BFA and MFA, and where she has taught since 1979. Itatani has earned both national and international recognition, regularly exhibiting her art in the U.S., Europe, and Japan. She has received fellowships from the Illinois Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation.


John David Mooney


Studies for Banners for Union League Club 125th Anniversary 2004

Charcoal on paper, 13 3/4 x 10 1/2 inches
Gift in Honor of John David Mooney

John David Mooney is internationally known for his large-scale public sculptures, light pieces, and environmental installations. Astronomy, science, and nature have played a significant role in Mooney’s art, and his public sculptures often draw inspiration from the spirit of place, the importance of the site, its history, and present environment.

In 1994, Mooney was an artist-in-residence at the Vatican Observatory at Castel Gandolfo and created outdoor sculptures inspired by astronomical phenomena at the Observatory’s rooftop telescopes and Vatican gardens. His 48-story light sculpture became the icon for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, and his Malta Millennium sculpture, commissioned by the government of Malta, ushered in 2000. Other important projects include Light Muse, the transformation of the Tribune Tower into a light sculpture to celebrate the Chicago Tribune’s sesquicentennial in 1997; and Crystara, a 30-foot high atrium sculpture of Waterford Crystal and aluminum for the University of Chicago.

A Champaign native, Mooney received his MFA from University of Illinois at Urbana and was awarded the Chicago Illini of the Year in 2006. Among his many honors, the artist received the Eloise G. ReQua International Humanitarian Award in 1999 awarded by the Chicago-Kent School of Law at the Illinois Institute of Technology. He is founder and artistic director of the John David Mooney Foundation, which presents international artists and architects to Chicago and provides a postgraduate, advanced study program.


Ruth Duckworth



Porcelain wall mural, 15 3/4 x 15 3/4 x 6 1/2 inches
Gift of the Artist and Thea Burger

Ruth Duckworth (1919–2009) is one of the world’s leading masters of clay arts and is widely recognized for her seminal role in the ceramics movement, advancing it as a vital art form. She created stylized birdlike forms, haunting faceless figures, and transcendent abstractions composed of beautiful organic and geometric forms and swathes of porcelain that reflect her concern for the environment and cycles of nature. Internationally celebrated, Duckworth completed more than 24 large-scale public commissions, including a monumental mural at the University of Chicago and her most impressive grand mural Clouds Over Lake Michigan in the Chicago Board of Options Exchange Building.


Though Duckworth was born in Hamburg, Germany, her family fled to England in 1936 during the rise of Hitler. She studied at the Liverpool School of Art, the Hammersmith School of Art, and the Central School of Arts and Crafts in England. In 1964, she was invited to teach at the University of Chicago, where she served on the faculty until 1977. Her art is collected and exhibited widely in the U.S. and Europe. In 2005, the Museum of Arts and Design in New York organized a major retrospective of her art that traveled to six museums around the U.S., including the Chicago Cultural Center. Duckworth is an American Craft Fellow and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Museum of Women in the Arts and Letters, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Craft Council.


Kerry James Marshall


Color lithograph, 19 3/4 x 15 inches
Gift of the Artist

Kerry James Marshall (b. 1955) creates paintings, prints, collages, sculptures, and installations that explore the cultural, social, and political history of African Americans. He simultaneously critiques racial stereotypes and representations while celebrating African-American history and contemporary culture. His painting acknowledges the Old Masters in both its emphasis on process and its reference to the tradition of monumental history painting. The figures in his art are noteworthy for the profound blackness of their skin tone, a formal device by which Marshall exposes and reclaims the inherent beauty, grace and power of the color, as seen in this image of a Girl Scout Brownie.

Marshall states: “You can’t be born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1955 and grow up in South Central [Los Angeles] near the Black Panthers headquarters, and not feel like you’ve got some kind of social responsibility. You can’t move to Watts in 1963 and not speak about it. That determined a lot of where my work was going to go.”

Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Marshall grew up in South Central Los Angeles and received his BFA from the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles. He moved to Chicago in 1987 and served as Professor of Art at the University of Illinois, Chicago (1993-2006). His art is collected and exhibited worldwide at the Whitney Biennial (1997), the Venice Biennale (2003), and Documenta in Kassel, Germany (1997 and 2007). He is the recipient of a prestigious MacArthur Foundation Fellowship and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Art.


Don Baum


Three-dimensional object comprised of six lithographic panels, 16 1/2 x 9 x 13 1/2 inches
Anonymous Gift in Honor of Don Baum

Don Baum (1922–2008) has influenced Chicago intellectually and visually as an artist, curator, and educator for over 60 years. As an artist, Baum is known for assemblages that combine hand-made elements and found objects. In his early constructions, he employed plastic doll parts, but he is perhaps best-known for his Domus series: small houses created out of found wood and metal and old paint-by-number pictures. With Domus, Baum explored the broad significance of shelter and the metaphysical and psychological ramifications of daily living.

As a curator, Baum was instrumental in bringing critical attention to Chicago art. From 1956 to 1972, Baum was director of the Hyde Park Art Center, a nonprofit art organization credited as the site of Chicago’s artistic revival. There, in 1966, Baum presented the work of six young painters who called themselves the "Hairy Who" (James Falconer, Art Green, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Suellen Rocca, and Karl Wirsum), spearheading the Chicago Imagist movement.

Hailing from Escanaba, Michigan, Baum studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and also took classes at Lázló Moholy-Nagy’s School of Design and at the University of Chicago. In 1948 he began teaching art at Roosevelt University and served as Chair of its Art Department from 1970 until his retirement in 1984.


Vera Klement


Portrait/Mandelstam, 1995

Oil on canvas, 40 x 32 1/3 inches and 26 x 19 7/8 inches
Gift of the Artist in Memory of J. Dillon Hoey

Vera Klement (b. 1929), one of the most respected artists in Chicago, has been committed to abstraction throughout her long and distinguished career. As a young painter in New York in the 1950s, she was influenced by the gestural brushwork and spontaneity of Abstract Expressionism that dominated the New York art world. When she moved to Chicago in 1965, during the rise of Chicago Imagism and its figurative art, she developed her signature style, mixing abstraction and expressive figuration and representation. Her paintings often focus on themes of longing, alienation, and isolation, as seen in her paintings that depict a woman gazing out a window.

Born in the Free City of Danzig, Klement and her family moved to New York in 1938 to escape the Nazis. She studied at the Cooper Union School of Art and Architecture in New York in the 1950s. Klement’s contribution to shaping Chicago’s art scene is significant. In the 1970s, she helped develop the women’s cooperative gallery Artemisia, and was a founding member of The FIVE, a group of Chicago abstract artists. From 1969 until her retirement in 1995, Klement taught painting at the University of Chicago. She has exhibited her art throughout the U.S. and has had retrospective exhibitions at Chicago’s Renaissance Society (1987) and Cultural Center (1999).


Richard Hunt


Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Welded bronze and brass, 22 x 15 x 11 inches
Gift of the Artist

Richard Hunt (b. 1935) is one of America’s foremost living sculptors, and he remains dedicated to his native Chicago. Internationally celebrated for his abstract metal sculptures, his works often express strength, endurance, flight, freedom, and the human spirit. He once stated that one underlying theme of his art is “the reconciliation of the organic and the industrial… forming a kind of bridge between what we experience in nature and what we experience from the urban industrial, technology-driven society we live in.”

In the early 1950s, Hunt emerged as a prodigy while a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Throughout his career he has experimented with sculpting techniques and metals as varied as aluminum, brass, bronze, copper, iron, Cor-Ten and stainless steels. In the mid-1960s, he began producing monumental public commissions and has created over thirty public sculptures in the Chicago-area alone.

Hunt’s artwork has been exhibited extensively in museums throughout the U.S. and Europe. In 1971, he was the first African-American artist to have a major solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He is the recipient of numerous honorary degrees and awards. In 1988, Hunt was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, an honorary academy with a membership limited to 250 American citizens, and in 2009 the International Sculpture Center honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Award.


Ed Paschke


Oil on canvas, 32 x 46 inches

Known by his friends as “Mr. Chicago,” Ed Paschke (1939–2004) is one of Chicago’s best-known and most celebrated artists. His paintings of figures from both high and low culture and his object “portraits” of shoes vibrate with color and references to popular culture and surrealism. Fascinated by the ways in which the mass media culture has altered perception, the garish colors and patterns of horizontal lines that appear in his paintings evoke a television screen.

This Chicago Imagist and icon once stated: “Chicago is a comfortable, easy place to work and have access to culture such as museums; theater, the symphony and movies. That, and the Chicago working-class experience and ethnic mixture of the neighborhoods here, have been built into my work.”

A native of Chicago’s Northwest side, Paschke received both his BFA and MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1968, he participated in Nonplussed Some, one of the important exhibitions of the Chicago Imagists organized by Don Baum for the Hyde Park Art Center. Paschke gained international recognition in 1973 when his art was included in Made in Chicago, the American entry for the São Paulo Biennial in Brazil. Paschke had a distinguished teaching career at Northwestern University, serving as Professor in the Department of Art Theory and Practice from 1977 until his death in late 2004.