American Academy of Art Irving Shapiro Library

The American Academy of Art’s Library is named for Irving Shapiro (1927-1994). Irving was a Chicago native who studied painting at Chicago’s Art Institute and later at the American Academy of Art (AAA). Irving Shapiro was teaching art at the AAA from 1945 until the day he retired. Watercolor was his world and quite a few artists that work in watercolor these days refer to Shapiro as possibly the most influential of all their teachers.


One of the typical characteristics of watercolor is its transparency. Watercolor is consisting of thin mixtures of paint pigments from a solid block or a tube that are suspended in water, and when the painter’s brush is laying down the paint, the colors spread rapidly which leaves transparent layers of color on the often wet paper. Watercolor paintings are actually built in controlled wash areas.

In 1992, the American Artist Magazine awarded Irving Shapiro the prestigious Artist’s Achievement Award in Watercolor. Irving also won the Mary Litt Medal and the High Winds Medal at the American Watercolor Society juried shows and was among the youngest artists that were ever admitted to that organization’s signature membership.

In addition to Irving’s teaching activities at the AAA and his administrative duties, he also lectured at other schools in the US, France, Italy, and Switzerland, and six of his lectures in watercolor painting were recorded on video and used at various educational institutions around the world.

Irving’s watercolor masterpieces can be enjoyed at art shows and exhibits throughout the US, Europe, and in Asia, and much of his work is found in galleries, private collections, and in numerous corporate offices around the globe.

His renown book “How to Make a Painting: Planning, Procedures, and Techniques in Watercolor,” was released in no less than eight translations, and Irving served on the boards of the Midwest Watercolor Society, the Municipal Art League, the Palette & Chisel Academy of Art, as well as the New York-based American Watercolor Society. Irving Shapiro was known as a very dignified gentleman, a great educator who dedicated much of his time to art education with the soul and mind of a true artist.

Irving was a distinguished man, a fine artist, and a fantastic watercolor painting teacher from 1945 to 1994 and the American Art Academy’s Irving Shapiro Library truly is a great center for lifelong learning. The Library is indeed a classroom extension, a space where students can study, read, explore, and research information about the world art in its broadest sense. world. The library’s virtual collections and all information in print are supporting all information needs of the students all across the Academy’s curriculum.

The Academy’s students can browse an impressive collection of over 2,600 books and 50 magazines and periodicals on multiple of subjects such as the humanities and commercial and fine art. They can also borrow whatever they need for their education. The Library additionally offers access to some 30 online databases that provide a continually updated source of the best world-wide articles on art in general and the most interesting images of art and art history.

The Library’s staff is providing several services to support the Academy’s students find, utilize, and evaluate images and information in an effective and ethically responsible way. The Academy’s curriculum incorporates information literacy instruction throughout studio art classes and academic courses and the students can get personal research assistance by appointments or on a drop-in basis. The library is sponsoring recreational and educational programs on a regular basis. These include technology training sessions, book discussions, and film screenings, just to mention a few.

The world of Art is constantly evolving and changing technological possibilities and developments demand current research skills and information. The Irving Shapiro Library is continually expanding not only its collections but also its services in order to be able to provide a constantly expanding range of support and resources to the Academy’s students to optimally prepare them for a great career as professional and successful artists. Students have online access to many of the library’s resources, including its databases and the library’s catalog. Irving Shapiro was a gifted educator, artist, and author who was a symbol at the American Academy of Art for a period of 50 years who also served for quite a few years as the Academy’s director and president.