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Thursday, December 3, 2020 at 6:00 PM CDT

Tradition & Innovation

Sale 5001 Lot 26

Louis Sullivan (1856-1924)
The Christmas Spirit of Joy, drawn for Common Clay, 1923
Chicago, Illinois
paper, graphite
initialed and dated lower right
8 3/4" x 6 1/4"

H.J. Lucas, President, Northwestern Terra Cotta Co., Chicago, Illinois
Gift to Mr. William C. Muchow, Denver Terra Cotta Company, Denver, Colorado
Thence by descent

Common Clay, American Terra Cotta & Ceramic Company, December 1923

Catalog Note:
"Louis Sullivan's drawing, The Christmas Spirit of Joy, was created for publication in the American Terra Cotta & Ceramic Company's journal, Common Clay. Featured in the Christmas 1923 issue, this is the celebrated modern architect's last known drawing before debilitating illness led to his death in the following spring. A smaller version was printed and sent by Sullivan as his personal Christmas card.

Out of respect for Sullivan's contributions to the terra cotta industry, the financially struggling architect was provided free office space in the Chicago branch of the American Terra Cotta & Ceramic Company during the last years of his life. The company would often assign Sullivan small projects, such as creating this Christmas greeting, as a respectful way of providing him with much-needed funds without the appearance of charity.

In addition to its significance as Sullivan's last known drawing, it is also a rare example of the designs he created late in life as stand-alone demonstrations of his ornamentation and superb drawing skills. The Christmas Spirit of Joy is a sadly poignant coda that closely follows Sullivan's defining drawings created for the famed A System of Architectural Ornament, which was published posthumously.

Long considered lost, this drawing was only recently rediscovered among the materials of a former terra cotta industry official."

— Tim Samuelson, Cultural Historian for the City of Chicago, 2020

Estimate $20,000-30,000

Sold for $37,500