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Louis Sullivan at 150 Years
Celebrating Louis Sullivan's 150th Anniversary

In 2006, the Chicago History Museum led a six-week series of public programs to mark the 150th anniversary of Louis Sullivan's birth. The culminating event was the Louis Sullivan at 150 International Symposium, held at the Museum. Click here to access audio recordings of the symposium presentations, including the keynote address by Jean-Louis Cohen.

This website serves as a record of the celebration and provides an extensive overview of Louis Sullivan's life and career. Click here to find out more about the programs held throughout Chicago to mark Sullivan's sesquicentennial.

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Sullivan left high school early, passing a rigorous set of exams to gain admission to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the first professional school of architecture in the United States. He entered as a third-year student at the age of 16. After one year of study, Sullivan moved to Philadelphia to work for architect Frank Furness. Furness was a successful architect who worked in the Greco-Gothic style and was an outstanding ornamentalist. The effects of the economic depression of 1873 caused a severe decline in commissions, forcing Furness to let Sullivan go.

Sullivan made his way to Chicago, where he sought employment with the architect William LeBaron Jenney. After working under Jenney for about a year, Sullivan left the United States for Paris where he studied at the …cole des Beaux-Arts for one year. The …coleís concentration on traditional ways of thinking left Sullivan looking for inspiration, and he embarked on an independent architectural study. He traveled through southern France and Italy, developing and refining his new architectural vision.

Sullivanís European experience had a significant impact on his future design work. Finding his muse in Michelangelo, he began to formulate his own vision of what architecture could be. He returned to Chicago and accepted a position with the firm of Joseph S. Johnston & John Edelman. In 1880, Sullivan left the firm to work with Dankmar Adler. Sullivan was named full partner in the firm just three years later.

Continue reading Adler and Sullivan

Charnley-Persky House;
Courtesy Commission on Chicago Landmarks

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This site is supported by a grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.