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Four German Artists Terra Cotta Busts - Second City Theater Facade, Chicago, IL
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member adgorn
N 41° 54.696 W 087° 38.088
16T E 447354 N 4640156
Quick Description: Busts of German artistic figures, constructed for the Schiller Theater (now demolished), and relocated to the facade of The Second City comedy club.
Location: Illinois, United States
Date Posted: 7/5/2011 7:18:23 PM
Waymark Code: WMBYWK
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member GwynEvie
Views: 2

Long Description:
Paraphrased from Reidy's "Chicago Sculpture":
“Richard W. Bock, associated with Frank Lloyd Wright, established himself as a leading sculptor of works adorning buildings by the end of the nineteenth century. He obtained a commission from Louis Sullivan when they were designing the Schiller Building (later known as the Garrick Theater) in downtown Chicago in 1892. It is believed that Bock is responsible for the busts on the Garrick façade. (Sullivan had decorated its facade with a second-floor balcony, and he ornamented the balcony with one dozen bas relief likenesses of German composers, poets, and philosophers, because this was originally the Schiller theater, devoted to German plays.) These were salvaged when the building was demolished in the 1960s. Four busts were purchased by Bernie Sahlins, Second City cofounder, and placed on the front of his Second City Theater, now at 1616 N. Wells. Others were incorporated into the walls of other residential buildings in Chicago.”

In a wonderful article entitled “Who are the Overseers of The Second City Comedy Theater in Chicago?” which you can read here: (visit link)
Bob Burton engaged in a quest to determine whom the busts portrayed. After extensive research and photographic comparison, he determined that they are, from L to R, Giacomo Meyerbeer (one of the leading composers of opera in nineteenth-century Europe), Fritz Reuter(story author and politcal activist), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (composer), and Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (founder of modern German literature.)

A little of the history of the original Schiller Theater and its Germanic roots from Burton's article:
"In addition to the Auditorium Building, one of the most notable Chicago structures designed by Adler and Sullivan was the Schiller theater building (later named the Garrick), formerly located at 64 West Randolph Street. Initially envisioned as a home for a German opera company, Anton C. Hesing, a prominent and wealthy Chicagoan of German ancestry, was the motivating force behind the project. Hesing was the owner and editor of the influential Illinois Staats-Zeitung (German language) newspaper, and he even served as the Sheriff of Cook County at the start of the Civil War.

When Adler and Sullivan received the commission to design the structure in 1891, the project was simply referred to as the “German Opera House Building.” When it opened in October 1892, the combined theater and office building was formally named the Schiller, after Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller, Germany’s famed playwright, philosopher, poet, and historian.

In addition to the dozen terra cotta portrait heads above the second floor balcony, the Schiller’s tower incorporated a series of portrait heads depicting heroes of German folklore above the arches of the seventeenth story windows."


We all have Richard Nickel to thank for preserving these sculptures. Nickel was a Chicago area photographer who preserved through photos many of the city's architectural landmarks that were ultimately torn down. He also took it upon himself to rescue pieces of art from these buildings. That activity cost him his life in 1972.
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