The Plan of Chicago is remembered today as much for its lavish illustrations as for its text. Indeed the drawings, maps, and views were critical to its favorable public reception. Seven illustrators contributed architectural renderings, sketches, and illustrations to the Plan of Chicago. Daniel Burnham hired these artists to bring visual power to the ideas in this grand work, hoping that it would help woo support for the Plan from public audiences. Although the incorporation of illustrations in planning projects was not new, the breadth and quality of the artwork in the Plan of Chicago raised the bar and exerted a strong influence on the procedures and promotional strategies used by urban planners from that time forward.
The best known of the Plan’s illustrators was Jules Guerin, a painter born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1866. Guerin established his artistic reputation with romantic depictions of international locales and city scenes for the pages of contemporary periodicals such as Century Magazine and Scribner’s. Guerin’s work on the McMillan Plan of 1902 as well as his architectural magazine illustrations, such as this example published in Century Magazine in 1905, caught the attention of Daniel Burnham, who engaged him to produce drawings for the Plan. Guerin created his illustrations for the Plan between 1907 and 1908. Several of his illustrations have become iconic. Guerin’s images are what come first to mind—for scholars and general public alike—when the topic of the Plan of Chicago is raised. By the time of his death in 1946, Guerin had secured his reputation as a preeminent muralist and authority on the visual aesthetics of city planning. He selected the color palette for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco and for the Grand Foyer of the Chicago’s Civic Opera Building; for the latter, he also designed the fire curtain on the stage. Perhaps most famously, his murals grace the walls of banks, train stations, cultural buildings, and monuments across the United States, including the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
City Beautiful Movement
Danzer, Gerald A. “The Plan of Chicago by Daniel H. Burnham and Edward H. Bennett: Cartographic and Historical Perspectives.” In Envisioning the City: Six Studies in Urban Cartography, David Buisseret, ed., pp. 144-173. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.
Reps, John William. The Making of Urban America; a History of City Planning in the United States. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1965.
Schaffer, Kristen J. Daniel H. Burnham: Urban ideals and the Plan of Chicago. Ph.D. Dissertation, Cornell University, 1993.
Art Institute of Chicago. “Jules Guerin.”. http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/artwork/artist/Guerin%2C+Jules
Jules Guerin. “Tulips in Bloom, Union Square Park.” Ca. 1905.