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Poetry Reading at the Dil

Robert Barnes taught in IU’s fine arts department for thirty-five years before retiring in 1999. Although residing primarily in Bloomington, Indiana; Umbria, Italy; and Searsport, Maine, he is often associated with the Chicago School of artists because of his training at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and representation by major Chicago art dealers. Nonetheless, this piece is from one of his few series to address a specifically Chicago theme.

The Dil Pickle Club, a Bohemian nightspot in Chicago from 1917 to 1935, was begun by the labor activist John “Jack” Jones. This scene shows the stimulating atmosphere of the club. Although it depicts a poetry reading as seen reflected in the convex mirror surrounded by a fireball of creativity, the image also hints at the club’s diverse range of social activities, with a dancing figure in the upper left; a group of people attending a lecture on free sex in the lower right; and a pair of seated men (Maxwell Bodenheim and Carl Sandburg) debating art, science, culture, or politics near the center. Among the club’s other noted attendees were Clarence Darrow, Upton Sinclair, Sherwood Anderson, Emma Goldman, and William Carlos Williams.

Robert Barnes
American, born 1934
Poetry Reading at the Dil
2012
Pastel and casein on paper
Image: 15 ¾ x 20 1/16 in. (40.0 x 50.9 cm); sheet: 22 9/16 x 30 in. (57.3 x 76.2 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Museum purchase with funds from the Estate of Herman B Wells via the Joseph Granville and Anna Bernice Wells Memorial Fund, 2012.41

Large image not available.