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'Chicago's Most Important Artist' Dies

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November 28, 2004

Ed Paschke, 65, one of the most important Chicago painters and the Mary Jane Crowe Professor of Art and Art History in the department of art theory and practice at Northwestern University, died in his sleep at his home Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25, 2004.

“Ed is among the top contemporary painters internationally who came out of the city of Chicago,” said David Alan Robertson, director of the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art at Northwestern. “He also was an individual who reached beyond his creative skills to get involved with cultural institutions throughout the city, including his service as a founding member of the Block Museum board of advisers.”

Paschke, a professor at Northwestern for 27 years, recently won a number of lifetime achievement awards and was a 2000 Guggenheim Fellow. His colorful and often confrontational paintings have been exhibited in and collected by museums throughout the United States and Europe since the 1960s. Only a few weeks ago, an exhibition of his work opened in Paris.

“Ed’s work exemplified a kind of biting edge that we find in a lot of Chicago history and literature, and he was at the center of Chicago’s Imagist movement, which tended to create a more accessible, upbeat, satiric, sometimes lampooning approach to culture,” said William Conger, professor of art theory and practice at Northwestern.

“His reputation for his contribution to the art world, his association with other artists, his mentoring of young students and the influence of his work easily make him the most important artist in Chicago.”

He was well known for his generosity to family, colleagues, artists and students.

“In addition to teaching and mentoring graduate students at Northwestern, Ed was very active with undergraduate education,” said Judy Ledgerwood, chair and associate professor of art theory and practice at Northwestern. “He liked to teach basic painting and drawing, and felt that he could have an impact on students who were maybe taking only one art class. He felt that it was important for students to get involved with making art as well as learning about art. That was unusual. Most professors of his stature gravitate toward students working at an advanced level of study.”

Paschke received a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in 1961 and master’s degree in fine arts in 1970, both from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Services will be private, but his family is planning a public memorial service in the future. Memorial contributions may be made to the Ed Paschke Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 46505, Chicago 60646-0505.