Ruth Horwich was a leading figure in the Chicago art community who, along with her husband Leonard, assembled a collection which celebrated the extraordinary range and breadth of human creativity in twentieth century art. Containing notable works by René Magritte, Roberto Matta and Jean Dubuffet alongside many examples from a new generation of artists, the collection became an inspiration to many as it successfully brought together mainstream modernist art (with an emphasis on Surrealism) and more contemporary works by many Chicago based artists, such as Ed Paschke, Roger Brown, Frances Whitehead and Laurie Palmer. Eager to share their love of art, the couple were generous in sharing many works from their collection with important institutions across the country, including the extraordinary Glittering the Being by Matta and The White Race by Magritte, both gifted to the Art Institute of Chicago as well as Alexander Calder’s Little Ball with Counterweight, which was donated to the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Horwich’s passion for collecting began soon after her marriage in 1942, when the couple began modestly acquiring paintings. Their passion for collecting grew as they became close friends with other legendary Chicago collectors such as Joseph and Jory Shapiro and Lindy and Edwin Bergman. Ruth Horwich became an enthusiastic supporter of many of the city’s art institutions, realizing that it provided her not only with an ideal opportunity to indulge her own passion, but also give back to the community
that she loved so much. “Ruth was extremely important to Chicago’s contemporary world going back to the late 1950s,” Art Institute President and Director Douglas Druick once remarked. “She was a devoted supporter of unknown and emerging artists, often welcoming them into her home for parties or to see her wonderful collection. And she and her late husband, Leonard, had one of the most fascinating collections in Chicago — Dada and Surrealism, self-taught artists and Chicago artists” (D. Druik, quoted in Chicago Tribune, July 30, 2014, www.chicagotribune.com [accessed January 31, 2015]).
In addition to her own collection, Ruth Horwich took on many leadership roles, serving on the twentieth-century painting and sculpture committee at the Art Institute of Chicago as well as the exhibitions committee of the city’s Museum of Contemporary Art. The Horwich family also commissioned Dubuffet’s monumental Monument with Standing Beast for the City of Chicago, where it is now located outside the James R. Thompson Center. But perhaps her most long-standing and personally rewarding relationship was with the Hyde Park Art Center, one of the oldest alternative art spaces in Chicago. She served on their board for forty years and during her tenure was able to share her knowledge and indulge her passion for supporting and mentoring local artists. She was a particular champion of the Hairy Who, a group of Chicago artists led by Jim Nutt and Gladys Nilsson, whose first exhibition was held at the Hyde Park Art Center in 1966. “…parties at the Horwich home were a regular part of the Hyde Park Art Center scene. A small group of artists, critics, curators, and close friends would assemble on Woodlawn Avenue… guests had the opportunity to view the impressive Horwich collection and to meet many of the artists responsible or creating the works. (S. Fleischman, 'Fanning the Flames in the Windy City,' Chicago Imagists, exh. cat., Madison Museum of Contemporary, 2000, pp. 28-29). Her enduring dedication and support to the wider artistic community was unparalleled; her thirst for knowledge and her desire to share it, unmatched. As a former director of the Hyde Park Art Center, Chuck Thurow recalled, “She wanted to know who the interesting new, young [artists] were. And she kept buying their work for her collection and encouraging them. I cannot think of another person who had such a long and consistent tenure in supporting Chicago artists” (C. Thurow, quoted in ‘News: Major Arts Supporter Ruth Horwich Has Passed Away, Newcity Art, Jul 31, 2014, www.art.newcity.com, [accessed January 27, 2015]).
Ruth Horwich also had a long and rewarding association with the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. In addition to her numerous gifts and loans, she was a constant support to both staff and artists alike. “Ruth was a great role model as someone who enjoyed life to the fullest, appreciated art deeply in its most classical and popular forms, and was equal parts self-possessed and generous, ” said the MCA’s director, Madeleine Grynsztejn, “She was an essential part of this museum’s historic grounding and ‘living history…[The couple’s collection] had a tremendous impact on the MCA. The iconic works by Alexander Calder that the MCA exhibits every day are here thanks to Ruth and Leonard’s generous gifts and loans. And to me, the pure joy these works give our public is the central legacy of Ruth’s life” (M. Grynsztejn, quoted in Chicago Tribune, July 30, 2014, www.chicagotribune.com [accessed January 31, 2015]).
WORKS FROM THE COLLECTION OF RUTH HORWICH