Saturday, October 28, 2006

Henry A. Thiede

Recently I received an inquiry about Henry Thiede, an early member of the P&C (born 1871, member as of about 1906). Unfortunately, in my research, I haven't found the answer to the particular question posed.

But I did learn about Henry Thiede, who was president of the club in 1923. (Thiede has appeared before on this blog--he travelled in Europe with Hake in 1912-13 and his photo appeared in the 1943 newspaper article about the club.)

Art director of the Red Book Corporation, Thiede was also the publisher of the club newsletter. He put out the newsletter ten months of the year from 1924 to 1932. In that year, publication ceased on account of the Depression. This was truly an amazing labor of love, especially when one considers that Thiede made of the newsletter much more than the usual circular of club gossip. Someday I will return to that subject in a longer post about the newsletter.

In the January 1926 number, Thiede reproduced a drawing done by one of the members (I believe it was his) "from a model recently posed in the club studio for the evening class. It is our intention to print similar reproductions from time to time, not only to embellish our columns, but to show the members who seldom use the studio that something is going on there all the time." All of the drawings here are atributed to Thiede himself.

Thiede went on to do illustrations for such publications as the Blue Book of Fiction and Adventure in October 1938 and February 1939.

I also found this poster by Thiede, which I would guess was done for the election of 1918 but is as timely now as it was then:

Friday, October 27, 2006

Oskar Gross and the Emperor

"Grandma from the Smokies" by Oskar Gross

The following feature article was written by C.J. Bulliet – Chicago Daily News, April, 1935:

Oscar Gross confesses that his art religion has been not to disappoint his father, who was a Viennese architect and engineer of culture and high social standing. Such filial piety, of course, is most laudable. But it has its dangers, and in the case of Mr. Gross I have an awful fear that, in the absence now of his father, he has transferred, without knowing it, this parental allegiance to the grave and learned “Tree Studio bunch” his artist associates in Chicago. He scoffs and he scolds when they tell him “it isn’t done in our set” when he kicks over the traces with something spontaneous and a little wild. But he doesn’t do it again – for quite a while.

His father wanted him to be an architect, but he became a portrait and figure painter instead. Now he wants to paint the victims he sees all around him of “social conditions” as they exist since the mighty upheaval of 1929 rather than the staid and stately sitters who have made a path to his studio door. He’ll do it as soon as he can disentangle the “Tree Studio bunch” from his hair – which may be never. But if he does, you’re going to see some pictures of Chicago derelicts as they are – not feeble imitations of Russians and Mexicans that clutter our “American scene” shows.

Gross, born in Vienna in 1872, was prenatally destined to be an American, if you’re naive enough to believe in prenatal influences. His mother had lived in New York for five years, when her wealthy father was exiled with his family for participating in the uprising of 1848 which also sent Carl Schurz to these shores. After the amnesty, he went back a poor man, the ancestral estate having been confiscated. But his daughter didn’t forget. America and Oskar Gross was rocked to sleep to American lullabies.

Oskar’s father, an aristocrat, belongs to a family who been on the other side of the uprising in 1848,led by students and young intellectuals seeking the betterment of social conditions. However, he personally was of liberal mind, and he not only married the daughter of the returned exile, but gave up all claims to family titles and privileges to make his own way as engineer and architect. He founded industrial art schools in Vienna, supported first by guilds, but taken over later by the state.

Oskar’s talents became apparent in the nursery. He scorned “bought toys” preferring to design and make his own. He grew up with the full intention of following his father’s wishes that he become an architect. But, once enrolled formally as a student, he found the mathematicl routine dull, and looked withlonging eyers toward the Imperial Academo of Fine Arts . H tok the examination for entrance and was one of thiry-two applicants out of 300 who were accepted.

(incidentally, and without reference to Mr. Gross, it was this examination though in another year, that Adolf Hitler, another Austrian, “flunked”. Had Hitler passed, he might have developed into a portrait painter in Vienna or Chicago, instead of a fuehrer of Germany.)

At the end of four years, Oskar Gross had made such progress along with five others of the thirty-two, that he was given the use of a big studio, rent free, with other expenses allowed , among which was $50 a year for model hire.
This luxury he forfeited, however, when it was found he was making enough money with his art to live that way anyhow. He had been to Munich, for instance, on a painting commission, and his professors threw portrait work his way. After two more years in the school, he graduated with the biggest prize, and went into the world with about $1500 besides earned from his portraits.

He took a handsome and expensive studio in Vienna, again against his religion – that is to say, against the best advice of his cautious father. He was elected a member, in full standing of the Association of Viennese Painters and Sculptors, which put him on a par with his professors and prevented him taking further jobs from these, now his colleagues, who had been continuing their assistance even after his graduation. He discovered before long the wisdom of his father’s advice, and was forced to give up his studio. As a student he could make money – as an “artist” he couldn’t, yet.

Having a sense of humor, which he still possesses in abundance, he became a contributor of humorous sketches with text to the Munich comic paper, “Fliergende Blaetter” For eleven months, they sent his jokes back with polite rejection slips, and then, all at once, right-about faced, and not only bought his stuff but made him a staff contributor.

Slowly, he was pulling himself out of his slough of despond, getting now ad then a portrait commission, sometimes from nobles and even a prince.

Then , in 1898, he won a competition to do murals for the Hungarian State Pavilion being designed for the Paris exposition of 1900. His sketch of Hungarian peasants with horses – horses are an “obsession” with Gross – was executed in violet ink. Not only was his sketch accepted, but the plans of the whole pavilion were altered to follow out his idea, and in the finishing of the interior, the tints were made to conform. He was called to Paris personally to superintend the job.

His work on the pavilion attracted the attention of the Chicago architect, Daniel H. Burham, who invited him to come here to decorate some of his buildings. Gross responded the following year, reluctant to leave Vienna and a career of portrait painting he felt was opening and in June, 1903, he made his Chicago debut. He was thus 32 years becoming the American his mother had destined him to be. One practical result of her enthusiasm for the New York of fiver years of her girlhood was that she had given hi a pretty good grounding in English so he arrived with fewer of the foreigners’ difficulties.

He was financially successful for a time, until Burnham died and Sullivan went to the wall. Then, as he puts it, “the department stores entered the building decoration trade” making it no longer attractive for the established artists drawing big fees.

In 1911, Gross participate for the first time in a painter exhibition at the Art Institute or Chicago. Before that he had exhibited with the architects in local shows.

Participation in the painters’ show meant that he was resuming his art life where he left off in Vienna, whe he won the prize for the Hungarian pavilion mural. He would devote his life, thenceforth, to painting portraits and figures – a program from which he hasn’t swerved, and which has brought him financial success. He has made trips to the Smokies and to other fairylands of the artists, but he prefers his Chicago studio There are plenty of interesting portraits to be painted here – portraits and figure types.

About that wild streak in his nature, that occasionally flares up to the consternation of the grave conservatives with whom he is allied, the “Tree Studio Bunch”, it mustn’t be forgotten that one of his immediate ancestors was a Viennese revolutionist, exiled, and that another, on the other side, while loyal to the emperor, brushed aside his ‘aristocracy’, became an engineer and married the daughter of the revolutionist.

Also, Oskar Gross, while a graduate, after six years of the Imperial Academy at Vienna, participated, as a charter member, in the Vienna secession -- one of those early movements in the Germanic countries that paralleled the French ‘modern’ movements. The Vienna secession looked admiringly to the Swiss Hodler, whose man with a red beard you can see in the Birch-Bartlett collection at the Art Institute.

Again, Gross scandalized his professors the very year of his graduation from the academy by “talking back” to less a personage than the Emperor Francis Joseph. He had sent to the Vienna spring show a painting of a religious procession in Vienna, with thirty girls in the parade, concentrating on the girls, and only suggesting the head of the procession moving out of the canvas. The emperor admired the picture, and asked that the artist be presented.

“Mr. Gross”, he said, “I hope you keep up your Vienna spirit and continue to paint Vienna pictures”

“But I have got absolution from my sins for the next twenty-vive years at least” Gross flashed back, “by painting thirty little girls”

The emperor laughed – the academy dignitaries were horrified, and assailed Gross ferociously after Francis Joseph left. But on two later occasions, Gross found himself in the presence of the emperor. Both times, Francis Joseph smiled cordially, and without being prompted, addressed him as “Mr. Gross”

(note: this newspaper article was originally illustrated with a reproduction of the painting at the top," Grandma from the Smokies", which was given to the Vanderpoel museum in 1940)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Sign Out Front

This linoleum cut was printed in the club newsletter of January 1929. Otto Hake was the artist.

From the January 1928 newsletter, we learn that the post and sign were designed and made by Walter Schmuck, who contributed them to the club.

Walter Schmuck also did this wood cut, reproduced in the January 1927 club newsletter:

Line Up For The Camp

From the April 1928 newsletter:

Either This or the Camp

"Everyone who in recent times has attempted to sketch on Sunday in the Caldwell or Desplaines River forest preserves will appreciate our cartoon. Only the accompanying dialogue usually runs something like this:

"Izzy: "Say! Here's some guys paintin'!"
Rosie: "Gee! Aint that swell!"
Abie: "Wonder how much he gets fer doin' it."
Eva: "My sister's brother-in-law's mother used to paint!"

"Now is the time to get the camp fever instead of the spring fever. Lots of good work was done there last year, as our exhibition proved. You cannot get the best results for your efforts in uncongenial places."
Cartoon by John Humski.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Old Pop Williams

From the April 1924 newsletter:
Old Pop Williams, the janitor of the Athenaeum Building, was instantly killed by his own elevator on March 11. The members of the old club remember gratefully Pop's willingness to elevate or lower the member who happened along after service hours.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Exhibit: Five Point Perspective

October 19 - October 31, 2006

Kathleen Newman

Kathleen Newman

Antonia Franck

Lenox Wallace

Terry Niccoli

Liz Wall

Friday, October 20, 2006

Joseph Tomanek

Joseph Tomanek(1889-1974) "View from Studio Window" (18th and Laflin looking east -- this painting now in the Vanderpoel Museum)

The following feature is taken from the Chicago Daily News -- September, 1935
"Artists of Chicago : Past and Present" by C. J. Bulliet

The aviator as a "peeping Tom" is the unique, disturbing factor in the life and art of Joseph Tomanek, whose pretty paintings of modest nudes of a readily salable type are fast establishing him as the Bouguereau of Chicago. Tomanek paints from the model, and unlike his idol, Bougereau,he likes to paint them outdoors, bathed in sunshine and unobstructed air. But Chicago is not yet ripe for the posing of nude models, even on the bathing beaches, let alone in the wooded parks or on private lawns.

So Joseph Tomanek, who has his studio in the Bohemian-American Hall building, the tallest structure in its neighborhood on the west side, has had the ingenious idea of posing his model on the roof, well above the window line of neighboring houses. To add to the privacy of the impromptu studio, he erects walls of draperies.

But in order to get full light, he can't put a cover over his model stand -- might as well paint in a studio, as did Bouguereau. And here's where the aviator makes his appearance -- literally. Eagle-eyed aviators have more than once spotted Tomanek's model. Statistics reveal no marked increase in crashes over Chicago since the resouceful painter put into practice his idea, but Tomanek and his model get nervous for fear the roaring moster over their heads might sudenly get out of control and plunge down to their roof.

One aviator got so accurately his bearing from the sky that he paid Tomanek a visit after landing and inquired if the roof was a "nudist colony." He said he belonged to such a colony in Michigan. However, when he discovered it was only an artist and his model at work, he apologized for his visit.

Tomanek, some years back when real estate was being boomed, bought a big lot in the Indiana dunes going right down to Lake Michigan.

When prosperity returns he's going to build him an open-air studio down there, set in a thick woods of cedars of his own planting, and surrounded on three sides by a fence without cracks nine feet high. Then, against Lake Michigan, he is going to pose his little nude models and produce paintings with which he hopes to challenge the late Warren Davis and, perhaps, the great Bouguereau himself.

Just now Tomanek paints nudes sitting on rocks with the ocean as a background. He paints from the model, but under difficulties. He has her clothe herself in a bathing suit and pose against the expanse of Lake Michigan. He makes a sketch. Then he takes her to his studio, has her disrobe, and finishes the picture.

Sometimes he uses the Lake Michigan background he sketched along with her. Sometimes he substitutes the Pacific Ocean at Los Angeles, where he painted once for a period of six months, doing mostly seascapes and landscapes without figures.

Though it's scandalously old-fashioned to admire Bouguereau, who was czar of the Paris "academy" in the time of Cezanne and Van Gogh, and was both butt of sarcastic jest and black beast of the "moderns", Tomanek is frank and unafraid in his admiration.

He believes Bouguereau was one of the greatest draftsfmen of all time -- a belief shared grudgingly by Van Gogh and not denied by Cezanne. Van Gogh and Cezanne condemned Bouguereau on the score of laziness in invention and sentimentality. Bouguereau was content to produce, year after year, his nudes by formula, waxing rich and renowned among buyers the world over, particularly newly rich Americans.

The period of Bouguereau's international "notoriety" as distinguished from substantial "fame" is past, and Tomanek is one of my enthusiastic "rooters" in my attempt to get the big canvas of "The Bathers" out of the basement of the Art Institute of Chicago and restore it to its rightful place on the museum walls. His admiration of "The Bathers" is such, indeed, that he once painted a copy of it. And on a trip to Europe in 1922 on an Art Institute traveling scholarship he hunted up all the Bouguereaus he could find in the Louvre and the Luxembourg and gave them close study.

Curiously, Tomanek is owner of a psychological parados that has sometimes puzzled the uninitiated in the way of the artists, that Bouguereau also possessed.

Bouguereau, while painting nudes for American barrooms with one hand was painting religious pictures for European churches with the other.

Tomanek, who has made a living as a mural painter, has been most successful in the adorning of churches both in Chicago and surrounding cities.

His work here has been chiefly copying the old Italian masters, the church being conservative and not much given to experiments in the matter of art.

But when the depression struck half a dozen years ago the church congregations, like everybody else, began saving their money, neither building new structures nor further adorning old. It was then that Tomanek, who had hitherto been painting his nudes as more or less of a hobby, turned to them for revenue.

Tomanek is identified with the Bohemian Arts Club of Chicago, along with Ingerle, Sterbe, Polasek, and a number of other prominent artists of extraction from the regions now encorporated in the the new post-war state of Czechoslovakia. His birthplace was the town of Staznice, old Moravia, and his birth date April 16, 1889. His father is still living at 84, a carpenter who stills goes about his business.

The family was musical, an uncle of his father being famous throughout Europe as a bass-viol player. Tomanek, who started to draw at 5, found his boyhood ambition torn between paint brushes and a violin. His accomplishments on the latter instrument won for him a place in the official orchestra of Staznice, a town of 10,000 inhabitants.

But his practical mother believed he would prosper better in world's goods as a shoemaker. He rebelled and finally they compromised by apprenticing him to an interior decorator. Work and study took him to Prague and eventually , after three years, he sailed for America, arriving in Chicago in 1910.

Here he found work with a Bohemian artist named Schamber, turning out "commercial work" on a big scale and at low prices.

Tomanek entered the Art Institute of Chicago, the fulfillment of a lifelong dream (till then) longing. He had wanted to study painting at Prague, but could manage niether the time nor the funds.

In his first year at the Art Institute school he won a prize. The next year he won another and at graduation, his fourth year, he got the capital prize, a traveling scholarship to Europe.

But conditions were so disturbed over there, immediately following the war, and the welding together of disturbed elements into the new state of Czechoslovakia, that he waited for four years to make use of his prize.

Then, in 1922 he visited Paris and other art centers, but went particularly to Prague, whre he studied with a celebrated figure painter, Professor Vajtech Hynais. His teacher, who had spent ten years in Paris, and worshipped the "academy" shared his enthusiasm for Bouguereau and after a year, Tomanek returned to Chicago with the ideals he still possesses.

On coming back to Chicago from his year abroad, Tomanek went to work for Thomas Cusack, the celebrated outdoor advertiser, who had become ambitious to take "the curse" off of billboards and make them "real art". Pressure was appearing from various organizations, who were complaining that Cusack's board and others were cluttering up....
( sorry -- the newspaper text is damaged here)

The Life Class At Work, Parts 1 and 2

In the back of an old file cabinet in the basement of the P&C, I found an old can of 16mm film. There was no label on the film can or the reel itself, but by holding up the first few frames to the light one could make out the words "The Life Class at Work."

I've had the film transferred to digital form and posted it to the internet in order to share it with others. It was too long to post as one clip, so I cut it roughly in half.

You will see that in the first part of the film Allen St. John is the instructor of a painting class. In the second half of the film, E.G. Drew gives a landscape painting demonstration.

I have been unable to confirm that either St. John or Drew were members of the P&C. In fact, on May 5, 1910, St. John's application to become a non-resident member of the club was refused. The only references I find to Drew (so far) are: on June 2, 1921, Mr. E.G. Drew's letter to the club was read at the monthly meeting (the contents of this letter are undisclosed); on February 4, 1924, a letter from one E.J. Drew (undoubtedly the same man) "of the Business Men's Art Club" was read at the monthly meeting. In that 1924 letter, Drew asked for permission to use the P&C's studio on Saturday afternoons from 2 to 5 for the purpose of conducting a study class. After some deliberation, the club politely refused Mr. Drew's request for Saturday afternoon, but formed a committee to see if there was some evening that it could offer him instead. (Allen St. John was also affiliated with the Business Men's Art Club of Chicago; he had a one-man show there in 1927.) I have not made it all the way through the records, so I don't want to rule out their membership in our club.

The other thing that is notable about the film is the setting. So far I cannot say that I recognize the setting as that of the current P&C clubhouse. There are no wide views in the film so it is hard to say, but I do not recognize the windows, chair rail, etc., as being from 1012 N. Dearborn. Given that Allen St. John was born in 1875 (some say 1872, he died in 1957), it is unlikely judging by how old he appears in the film that it was shot before 1921, when we moved to the current clubhouse on Dearborn.

If you find something that connects St. John or Drew to the P&C, let me know. St. John, especially, was a marvellous artist--he painted the cover art for Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan novels--and I would dearly love to claim him as one of our forebears.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Frank Beatty


Beatty exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1931. He was a member of the Palette and Chisel Club (Chicago), and worked as an illustrator for Popular Mechanics. October 1930

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Two Evenings A Week For Art

An article about the P&C from the September 4, 1943, Chicago Daily News. (Click on the photos to read the captions.)

Notice, first, the distinct absence of young men during wartime. Notice, second, the casual manner in which the members were smoking in the clubhouse--a practice that makes one shudder today for the sheer hazard of it. Notice, third, the drawing on the wall in the photo of Oscar Erickson at the press--that drawing is hanging in the second floor bathroom today.

And finally, notice the pool table in what is now the basement office. Hey, where did that go?

(Those pictured here include Otto Hake, Jeffrey Grant, Oscar Erickson, A. H. Ulrich, Frank Beatty, H. A. Thiede, Norman Anderson, Edwin Woppler, and Harry Engle.)

Fiftieth Anniversary

From April 5 to May 20, 1945, Galleries 52 and 53 of the Art Institute of Chicago were devoted to the 50th Anniversary of the Palette and Chisel Academy.

The artists shown are listed as follows:

Adam Emory Albright
A. Alfredson
Norman Andersen
C. Curry Bohm
Karl C. Brandner
Frank T. M. Beatty
C. Carey Cloud
Frank V. Dudley
Robert Grafton
Walter Graham
J. Jeffrey Grant
Fred Grey
Edward T. Grigware
Oskar Gross
E. Martin Hennings
Victor Higgins
Othmar Hoffler
Rudolph Ingerle
Wilson Irvine
Holger Jensen
H. L. Jorgensen
Karl Krafft
Erwin Kummer
Leo A. Marzolo
Lawrence Mazzanovich
Frederick Mulhaupt
Arvid Nyholm
Vincent L. O'Connor
Karl Ouren
Edgar Payne
Arthur G. Rider
Eugene Savage
N. P. Steinberg
Antonin Sterba
Joseph Tomanek
James Topping
Arnold E. Turtle
Walter Ufer
Nicola Veronica
Charles Sneed Williams

The "only art association west of Pittsburgh that maintains regular classes with a model" ? Wow -- we really do have a tradition of figure model workshops, don't we.

So..... what happened ? Why didn't the Art Institute host a 100th anniversary exhibition ? As I vaguely recall --- there was some discussion on this topic back in 1994 -- but I think everyone knew that the Art Institute would no longer be interested.

By the way -- the exhibition catalog also listed the following paintings as coming from the Art Institute's collection:

Lawrence Mazzanovich - "April 20"
Karl Krafft - "Mississippi River"
Wilson Irvine - "Autumn"
Ingerle - "The Swapping Grounds"
Victor Higgins - "Spring Rains"
Eugene Savage - "Arbor Day"
Walter Ufer - "Solemn Pledge"

I know the Higgins and the Ufer are still there -- and they're currently on display in the American Wing -- but what about the others ? Further research is required.

And as you might have noticed, some of the artists on display were deceased -- and one of them was a woman, Nicola Veronica:

Here's a watercolor done by her in 1941 -- but no other information about her has yet been found.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Exhibit: Marci Oleszkiewicz, Stuart Fullerton, Max Ranft

Max Ranft

Max Ranft

Marci Oleszkiewicz

Marci Oleszkiewicz

Marci Oleszkiewicz

Marci Oleszkiewicz

Stuart Fullerton

Stuart Fullerton

Stuart Fullerton