Collection Spotlight: The Castle Inn, 1945
By Kenneth P. Becker (1913-1972)
 
Irving Clarke recently donated this framed pen-and-ink drawing. Mr. Clarke informed us that the artist had given the drawing to his parents. The piece is signed “Becker ’45”.  After doing an internet search, staff found a website about an artist named Kenneth Perrin Becker who lived in the Hinsdale area at the time this print was created. He was noted for pen and ink drawings of local scenes although he also practiced in other mediums. We contacted the administrator of the website, Antonie Becker, the daughter of Kenneth P. Becker, to see if she could verify that the drawing was indeed her father’s work. She confirmed that it was his signature although she had never seen this particular subject before. She indicated that her father loved to give paintings to people who admired them.
 
Becker was born in 1913 in Berwyn, Illinois and moved to Hinsdale to finish high school. He began studying art in 1931 at the Art Institute of Chicago and also spent time in workshops at Mohegan Island, the Maine Art Colony and at the Oxbow Summer School of Painting in Saugatuck, Michigan. He exhibited at various art galleries in the Chicago area and spent summers is Aspen, Colorado. After his marriage, he began working at a lithographic and point-of-sale advertising company alongside his father to support his growing family. Although he moved briefly to Geneva, he returned to Hinsdale where he had a studio on the fourth floor of the house after installing a skylight. In 1945, The Art Institute mounted a one man show of his drawings. During this time, he was a member of The Cliff Dwellers, a renowned club for artists and writers, as well as a longtime member of The Arts Club of Chicago. Unfortunately, he developed a drinking problem and died of liver failure in 1972 at the age of 59.
 
In 1973, the Art Institute acquired four of his watercolors for their permanent collection. His works are also in many private collections. This is the first known Becker piece to be added to the Hinsdale Historical Society collection.The Castle Inn was built in 1836 by Orente Grant on the south side of the Southwest Trail (now known as Ogden Avenue) just east of York Road. The Inn served both travelers through the area and new settlers to the area while their permanent homes were being built.

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