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Biography: Ruth D. Nelson

Ruth D. Nelson

Ruth D. Nelson, a graduate student in art history at the University of Illinois at Chicago, conducted research on the interior of the Marquette Building, which she describes as “one of the most stunning attractions in Chicago.” It was built in 1894, and the mosaic mural in the lobby’s rotunda is one of the few existing glass mosaics designed by J.A. Holzer and executed by the Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company. Holzer was the company’s chief mosaicist, and his mural depicts the expedition along the Mississippi River by the 17th-century French explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet.

Nelson’s project centered on the team of artisans, technique, and materials employed by Holzer in completing the Marquette Building’s mosaic mural. “There are no published works on this piece, but I believe there is a growing interest in Tiffany mosaics in the United States and abroad,” she said. She also compared the mural with Holzer’s other Chicago commissions.

“Holzer’s work in Chicago began with the Tiffany Chapel for the company’s exhibit in the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893,” Nelson explained. “Examining the work which brought Holzer to Chicago and led to the Marquette commission would be valuable to this project. The chapel was recently restored and reassembled at The [Charles Hosmer] Morse Museum of American Art in Winter Park (Orlando), Florida. Holzer completed his work in Chicago with the Tiffany mosaics in the Chicago Cultural Center in 1897.”

Nelson has a bachelor of arts degree in history from the University of Illinois and a master’s degree in international affairs from Columbia University.