Featured image: Richard Nickel
Just as a young Louis Sullivan had a life-changing epiphany when experiencing Michelangelo for the first time in the 1870s, so a young Richard Nickel was blown away by Louis Sullivan’s work that he first encountered in the 1950s.
On his first trip to Rome (early 1875), gazing up at the Sistine Chapel ceiling for two days, Sullivan met a creative spirit unlike any he’d ever experienced. In Michelangelo, Sullivan recognized the power of man to create and to shape the world, “the man of super-powers, the glorified man…striding abroad in the open.” Michelangelo would be a central guiding spirit for Sullivan as he forged his own unique path of architectural design.
In the early 1950s Richard Nickel had enrolled in a photography class and was given the assignment to shoot all of Adler & Sullivan’s buildings. Nickel not only became enthralled with Sullivan’s ornamental work, he devoured Sullivan’s writing. Nickel later wrote, “His passion about building impressed me at first… he showed total devotion to building. Then there were his ideas about functionalism and his devotion to nature, things that I had an affinity toward myself. Now, I wasn’t very well read at that point, but I never had encountered a personality like that, one that was so involved with life.” Sullivan’s uncompromising work would be the central focus of Nickel’s life as he photographed, salvaged, fought – and even died for – Sullivan’s buildings.
This legacy of the creative spirit being passed on and propagated through painting and sculpture, architecture, and photography, will be but one of the topics we will explore on Sunday, April 17th, as Margaret Hicks of Chicago Elevated and I lead a two-hour tour focusing on Sullivan’s Chicago buildings and Nickel’s photography.