Saturday, December 02, 2006

Ruth Van Sickle Ford: The First Woman Member


Is the legend wrong?

Legend has it that in 1961 Ruth Van Sickle Ford was the first woman admitted to membership at the Palette and Chisel.

But then I see an obituary in the Chicago Tribune for July 9, 1996, titled: "Rita Goldstein; 1st woman in Palette & Chisel Academy."

The obituary states that Rita "Rissie" Goldstein, 75, "a Chicago-area artist and art teacher, was the first woman to be admitted to membership in the Palette & Chisel Academy of Fine Arts." According to the obit, Goldstein "studied under WPA muralist Otto Hake and Ruth Van Sickle Ford."

Ruth Van Sickle Ford was an eccentric, excellent artist and teacher. (I know one of her students from Aurora.) She was an instructor of Walt Disney. She gave birth to a child on a cross-country train trip. In 1949, along with her husband, she built a round house made of "anthracite coal, steel, glass, cedar, and hemp," and defied the curious burghers of Aurora who came by to gawk at the place, putting up a sign at one point that said, "We don't like your house, either." Here are some photos of her house:

Ruth Van Sickle Ford painted the girl with the piercing blue eyes--the one that the club has seen fit to hang in the basement. But was she the first woman member of the club? Or could it have been Rita Goldstein, about whom there is no legend?

The truth is more interesting than a story of dates.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

She was the first member... also a great teacher. Walt Disney was quoted to say that he learned more about art, cartoning and the business of art at the Academy in Chicago that at any other time in his life. Painter Santiago Martinez Delgado called Van Sickle the best watercolor teacher in the world.

June 25, 2008  
Anonymous harold h huth said...

I studied under her and her staff in the late 50's, her ability to teach in 98 degree, Chicago humidity, to a crowd of novice kids, watching her turn a dark colorless shadow into a cool "blue" place of art was amazing...after 2 years of army duty, I studied in Houston under her ex employee (Texas Academy of Fine Art) and I guess did alright for myself...I still have a very fond memory of her no nonsense style of teaching...

June 19, 2009  
Blogger Jeanine said...

I had the privilege of studying under her in the early 1980's. She allowed me to come to her home in Aurora, IL and for $3.75 I would sit with her all afternoon and paint. She taught me more about art than any other experiences I've had in my life. She was a kind woman and a wonderful teacher.
Jeanine Jones

February 09, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ruth was the first woman artist member of Palette & Chisel, in 1960, followed by many others the year after. Eleanor Jewett, a Chicago art critic, was bestowed an honorary membership earlier. Ruth and Walt Disney were students at the same time, and remained friends. He would stop by the Academy when in Chicago. She gave him an "degree" that subsequently hung in the Disney museum for a few years, and thus the rumor that she was his teacher started. I have been working on a book about Ruth for the past 7 years and expect to publish next fall. Check out my just-launched website, Thanks. Nancy Hopp

March 23, 2010  

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