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As we celebrate the centennial anniversary of Gustave Eiffel’s death and as part of the 5th Chicago Architectural Biennial, the Alliance Française de Chicago is proud to present an exhibition of paintings by Maurice Sullins that pays tribute to Eiffel’s world-famous tower in an originally distinctive way. Eiffel’s masterpiece of architecture and engineering not only laid the foundations for the high-rise buildings so emblematic to Chicago’s landscape, but its influence on painters permeates the realms of imagination and extends far beyond its physical form.


Maurice Sullins, an Illinois self-taught master of visual storytelling, possessed a remarkable ability to envision this iconic monument in his paintings with unparalleled finesse. Although he never went to France nor did he ever see the monument in person, he seamlessly integrated the Eiffel Tower into brilliantly imagined narratives. This exhibition invites the viewer not only to consider the impact of Eiffel’s extraordinary work in Chicago and beyond, but also to visualize how architecture transcends the physical form to shape artistic expression, forever leaving its mark on the canvas of art history.


Over the course of his short career spanning fifteen years (1970 - 1985), Sullins worked in near isolation and did not show his work. Moreover, it is important to note that he never left Illinois, but rather traveled the world through the publications he collected and the paintings and characters he created. His alter-ego, whom he referred to as “The Dapper Frenchman,” can be seen gallivanting throughout his pictures in the form of a gentleman with a top hat, frequently in black silhouette or as a stick figure.


Most of the works presented in this exhibition depict enchanted scenes in France, with the Eiffel Tower as a backdrop to narratives with witty titles and elements that often reference European masters. While he never copied other artists, Sullins transformed and construed famous recognizable motifs into his own fresh and unique painterly language, believing his purpose was to continue their great work. Most notably, “Madame Etienne de Silhouette”, a recurring figure throughout Sullins’ oeuvre, was inspired by one of the women in Georges Seurat’s Un dimanche après-midi à la Grande Jatte.

Hailed by critics as “an artistic genius” and “one of the most important outsider artists of the 20th century", Maurice Sullins died on March 21, 1995 at 84 years old. Upon his death, he left behind an exceptional body of work that was placed in storage, where it remained out of sight for twenty-two years.  After decades away from the public eye, the Sullins collection is being unveiled by Hana Pietri Gallery through a series of exhibitions, offering an unprecedented opportunity to witness the extent of his strikingly original talent. ​

Price list and inquire HERE.

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