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Roger Brown Sketchbooks

About This Collection

With his gift of the Roger Brown Study Collection (RBSC) to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), Brown included a wealth of archival materials, including 20 of his original sketchbooks.1 He carefully organized the sketchbooks, placing a note in each, with the year(s) they were drawn in. The sketchbooks range from 1965, when he was an undergraduate at SAIC, and end with his last sketchbook dated 1993-1997.

Roger Brown’s sketchbooks reveal the origin and development of Brown’s creative process, providing insight into his ideas from his student years to his final works.  They are original, unique, irreplaceable documents; invaluable in the interpretation of the resulting artworks, as well as revealing ideas that never went further than a sketch. The two earliest (1965 + 1967 and 1966 + 1969) appear to have been used in drawing classes. The remaining sketchbooks were essential elements in his work in the studio. Many are filled with exquisitely rendered thumbnail sketches for paintings and sculptures. Others reveal the design process for sets and costumes for theater and opera productions, and for Brown’s large-scale murals for architectural settings. Sketchbooks contain Brown’s designs for homes and gardens, some realized, and some imagined.

Please note: Brown used the first (front) part of sketchbook number #2 in 1966, and the back section in 1969. The digital images are organized into Sketchbook#2, 1966 and Sketchbook #2, 1969, for ease of viewing. The front section includes drawings and watercolors. He then turned the sketchbook around and used the back section in 1969, beginning at the end of the book. This section contains images cut out from newspapers, primarily comics and some medical images. He adhered some images to the pages and some pages contain some or many loose cutouts. Some digital images in this section show individual cutouts arranged so they’re visible; these are not Roger Brown’s arrangements. This section is particularly interesting as it relates to Ray Yoshida’s practice of arranging images cut from newspapers into works of art, and Christina Ramberg’s collection of images of medical conditions of the human body.

The sketchbooks are labeled by the year(s) Brown drew in them. You may compare sketches with realized works of art, also organized in folders by year, in SAIC’s Roger Brown Master Artworks website. Sketchbook images have been included in exhibitions and exhibition catalogs, scholarly journals, theses, dissertations, and film. With the exception of the 1974 sketchbook, which is in a private collection, the sketchbooks are stored at the Department of Prints and Drawings of the Art Institute of Chicago.

The Roger Brown Study Collection (RBSC) of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) is the primary repository for Roger Brown's legacy. Information about the life and art of Roger Brown can be found at www.saic.edu/rogerbrown. SAIC owns the copyright to all works by Brown unless otherwise assigned. For reproduction permission or other information please contact RBSC staff at rbsc@saic.edu or 773-929-2452.



1 Brown gave his 1974 sketchbook to a private collector as a gift; this book was digitized and is included in this online collection. Brown’s last sketchbook (1993-1997), discovered by Roger’s brother Greg, at his parents’ home, was given to the RBSC in 2008.

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