• Briggs Dyer
    Untitled (dark face)
    acrylic on board
    29 1/2 x 19 1/2 inches

  • Briggs Dyer
    oil on canvas
    18 1/2 x 23 inches

  • Briggs Dyer
    c. 1955
    acrylic on canvas
    16 x 22 inches

  • Briggs Dyer
    Miss America No. 3
    oil and collage on canvas
    16 x 12 inches

  • Briggs Dyer, 1930s.


b. 1911 – d. 1970

Briggs Dyer is an integral part of the untold history of the School of the Art Institute and the Chicago art scene in general. A painter of great imagination and skill and an extremely influential and beloved teacher, he was also one of the boldest fighters for the rights of faculty members at the School. Born in Atlanta in 1911, Dyer went to art school in Cincinnati, was part of the WPA (making lithographs in the mid-30s) before coming to Chicago to teach at SAIC. He was an instructor at SAIC twice, first from 1938-42, then again after a five year hiatus (teaching at Minneapolis School of Art) from 1947 until his untimely death in 1970. Initially, Dyer was a devout student of painter Francis Chapin, whose watercolor and litho techniques he mastered and disseminated. In the late ’30s and early ’40s Dyer taught that painting was basically for decoration, that artworks should be pretty and evocative. He was, as well, a sales rep for Ramon Shiva paints, which meant he always had fine pigments to work with.

After 14 months of wartime action in the Pacific Theater, and mid-40s studies in European modernism, however, Dyer’s perspective was drastically shifted and he began to look for deeper, non-decorative aspects to artmaking. In a drastic move, he destroyed virtually all of the Chapin-esque American Scene work he had made, and soon he began exploring abstraction, creating a signature style of imploded faces and torsos that might place him in league with the “monster roster” of figural expressionists. Although his work was shown widely at venues including MOMA, the Whitney, AIC, the Corcoran, Detroit Institute of the Arts, Seattle Art Museum, Dyer was never much of a self-promoter, and in the ’50s he devoted much of his time to teaching and faculty advocacy at SAIC.