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1929 Varin View of the Chicago Water Works in Chicago, Illinois

Chicago Water Works 1868. - Main View

1929 Varin View of the Chicago Water Works in Chicago, Illinois


The Chicago Water Tower - one of the few buildings to survive the Great Chicago Fire.


Chicago Water Works 1868.
  1929 (dated)     14.5 x 17.5 in (36.83 x 44.45 cm)


This is a 1929 Raoul Varin aquatint view of the Chicago city waterworks and water tower as it appeared in 1868. Located on modern-day Michigan Avenue (called Pine Street in 1868), the Water Tower and the pump house survived the Great Chicago Fire of October 8-10, 1871. It stands 182.5 feet tall and housed a 138-foot high standpipe while it was operational. When Pine Street was widened in 1918, the plans were revised to give the Water Tower and the Chicago Avenue Pumping Station a featured location.
Source Print
Varin adapted an 1867 view published by Louis Kurz and James W. Sheahan to create the present view. The Kurz and Sheahan view was published in Chicago Illustrated in January 1867.
Aquatint is a printmaking technique that has been used since the 18th century. In aquatint, the artist creates an image by marking on the surface of a copper or zinc plate. The marks hold the ink, which is then transferred to paper when the plate is passed through a printing press. One of the innovations of the aquatint process was the ability to create tonal variation depending on how the image was etched onto the printing plate.
Publication History and Census
This view was created by Raoul Varin and published by A. Ackermann and Son in Chicago in 1929. Varin produced a series of thirty-one views of Chicago between 1926 and 1932, each issued in a limited edition of 125 prints. The present print is hand-numbered in the lower-left corner and is number 125 of 125, making it the last impression in the print run. It is signed by Varin on the lower right. Today, Varin's prints are known to have suffered from poor framing and are generally not in the best condition. The presently offered print, however, is stunning. We are aware of one other example of this view in private hands.


Raoul Varin (1865 - 1943) was a French watercolorist active in Europe and the North America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Varin exhibited in the Salon of French Artists and received an honorable mention in 1892. He is most famous for his historic Chicago aquatint views, of which he produced some 31 between 1926 and 1932. The collection included historic views drawn from early sources as current views of Chicago as Raoul saw it. Some were engraved by Ernest Byfield, who was the initial publisher of the series. Later, after Byfield went bankrupt, publication was taken over by A. Ackermann and Son's Chicago office. Buoyed by the success of his Chicago series, Varin went on to produce a series of 'Old New York', images, but these did not attain the same level of popularity. More by this mapmaker...

Ackermann (1795 - 199x) was a British publishing firm founded by Rudolph Ackermann (April 20, 1764 - March 30, 1834). First known as R. Ackermann and Company, Ackermann's three sons took over the business when their father retired. The firm was known as A. Ackermann and Son in the early 20th century and had offices in London, Paris, New York, and Chicago. Their New York office was exceptionally prolific, issuing work for both the private and government sectors. Ackermann was acquired in late 1990s and the imprint resurrected. Learn More...


Very good. Exhibits slight scuffing along right border. Signed and numbered by artist. Blank on verso.