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CHARLES YERKES (1837-1905)
by Jan Van Beers (1852-1927)
The wheelings and dealings of investment banker and traction entrepreneur Charles Yerkes, who established streetcar lines in Chicago in the late 1880s and headed the syndicate that built the London Underground at the turn of the century, were the source of inspiration for Theodore Dreiser's novels The Financier (1912), The Titan (1914), and The Stoic (1947).

Yerkes, who in 1892 also provided the fund for the University of Chicago to build the Yerkes Observatory, which included what was then the world's largest telescope, was as influential in the art world as in the realm of business. He contributed large sums of money to ensure that the 1893 Columbian Exposition was held in Chicago and served on its Committee on Fine Arts. His own art collection was one of the largest in the nation. The Belgian Jan Van Beers was a favorite painter of Yerkes. This portrait, a gift from the artist to his patron, was one of ten of Van Beers's works that Yerkes loaned to the Columbian Exposition.
Oil on panel, circa 1893
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Gift of Mrs. Jay Besson Rudolphy
NPG.76.28
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