A Portrait of the Artist as President's Wife: Maude Hutchins at the University of Chicago


The artist Maude Phelps McVeigh Hutchins arrived at the University of Chicago in fall 1929 following her husband’s election as the University’s President. She continued her work as a sculptor, painter, poet, and playwright throughout the next twenty years of her career in Chicago, despite the social constraints of her official status. Today, she is remembered almost exclusively for her brilliant erotic novels of the 1950s and 60s, which earned her the reputation of an “American Colette.” The recent NYRB Classics reprint of her 1959 novel Victorine inaugurated a revival of Maude Hutchins’ post-Chicago literary period, while the art of her Chicago time is still immersed in oblivion. Drawing on the materials from the University of Chicago’s Special Collections, this lecture uncovers Maude Hutchins’ forgotten contribution to the climate of intellectual and creative iconoclasm in 1930s and 40s Chicago and reconstructs a piece of the University’s history from an unofficial, intimate, counter point-of-view as reflected in her drawings, sculptures, letters, and poetry.