Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Move to 1012 North Dearborn

Palette and Chisel Club now part of North Side Colony

by Eleanor Jewett (Chicago Tribune, June 5, 1921)

The new town quarters of the Palette and Chisel Club,
and above, their summer camp on Fox Lake.
Both places would be approved in appearance by shrubs.
Will a volunteer gardener come forward to teach these artists
how to make a beautiful landscape outside of a canvas field?

Unless organizations are called to mind purposely from time to time one is apt to forget them. There are so many new things springing up and so many old things dying out from day to day, that unless those things that are permanently here and equally here tomorrow as they were yesterday, are designedly, at stated intervals, lifted from the shade of their permanence, dusted off a bit, with memory's touch, and placed in the limelight afresh, they almost might as well be with the dust of the Caesars, buried a thousand years.

Therefore, lest we neglect an organization that has stood for a great deal during the past twenty five years, and that is trying to make itself more valuable in the present, it is time that here and now we mention the Palette and Chisel Club again. The club was started in 1895 and there were 8 charter members. The membership grew with the years. From the eight it grew to thirty-five, than to a hundred, and now it is 400. Study classes in the studio and in the country are held for the benefit of the artist members. As many as ten of the members were studying in Europe at the same time.

Some of the original entertainments of the club, given during the past years, are amusing to recall. "Il Janitore" cast by George Ade, afterward came to be known as the "Sultan of Sulu". At the time when the newspapers were bringing influence to bear upon the Illinois Central to get them to electrify the roads into Chicago, the Club produced a burlesque "The Hog in Chicago's Front Yard". It might well be given again now. The electrification of the road is as much needed today as ever.

"Carmine", a takeoff on the opera "Carmen" was a marvelous production. "The Shredded Vast" was a huge comedy success."Le Cabaret du Howard Pourri" was another famous bit of humor and sarcasm.

Aside from these amateur theatricals, the club indulges in more serious efforts, and has done so in a pleasant and worthwhile way. Annual exhibitions of paintings by members have been held during the winters; December usually sees a sketch show; other interesting exhibits deal with commercial art, one-man shows, and exhibitions outside of the clubrooms, some given in the Art Institute galleries, and others in various art galleries.

The club magazine is cleverly titled "The Cowbell". The name was derived from the huge cowbell with which the noisy meetings were called to order in the halycon days by the president. It was published for three years and had a circulation of one thousand. The war put a quietus to this effort, but the magazine is to be resumed.

Perhaps the most startling innovation at the club in recent days is its removal this Spring from its old quarters at the Athenaeum Building to the huge residence purchased by the members at 1012 N. Dearborn Street. There are a number of other artist colonies, or fragments of colonies, in its neighborhood, and more than probably a few years time will see a Chicago Greenwich Village spring from the nucleus of the Palette and Chisel Club's endeavor, like a Minerva, full panoplied from the brow of an aristocratic Jove.

The new building will provide a studio and exhibition gallery, an etching room, a lounge, billiard room, grill, library and reception rooms, as well as sleeping quarters for distinguished visitors. It will be as complete a thing of its kind as any city can boast. With all of its new comfort,none of the mellow flavor of friendly companionship, so warmly felt in the old rooms, will be missed here. The dignity of the city house facade will not penetrate to the more or less Bohemian rooms within.

Some of the past and present members of the Palette and Chisel who have obtained distinction are: Leroy Baldridge, staff artist of Stars and Stripes, author of "I was there", Gustave Baumann, Gold Medal Panama Pacific Exposition, 1915; Clare Briggs, cartoonist; John H. Carlsen, Palette and Chisel Club Associate Member's prize, 1916; Palette and Chisel Club Medal, 1918; Frank Dudley, Butler Prize 1915, Logan Medal, 1920; Martin E. Hennings, Palette and Chisel Club Gold Medal, 1916, Englewood Women's Club Prize 1916; Victor Higgins, Palette and Chisel Club Gold Medal, 1914, Municipal Art League, 1915, Logan Medal, 1917, Altman National Academy of Design 1918; Edward Holslag, Mural Decorations, Library of Congress, Member, National Society of Mural Painters; William Irvine, Silver Medal, Panama-Pacific Exposition, 1915, Palette and Chisel Club prize, 1918, Chicago Society of Artists, 1918, Grower Prize, 1917; Karl Krafft, Municipal Art League, 1918, Artists Guild, 1916-1917; Ossip Linde, Honorable Mention, Paris Salon 1907, Medal Paris Salon, 1910; Arvid Nyhold, Municipal Art League, 1915, A.I.C. prize 1915; Edgar Payne, Palette and Chisel Club Gold Medal, 1913, Gold medal Sacramento fair 1918; Albin Polasek, Prix de Rome 1910-1913, honorable Mention Paris Salon 1913, Logan Medal 1917; Eugene Savage Prix de Rome 1912-1913; Walter Ufer, Logan Medal 1917, Clark prize, N.A.D. 1918; Ezra Winter, 1911-1914.

During the Summer months, the club maintains a place at Fox Lake for outdoor painting. The "Summer Camp" as it is called, is the property of the club and comprises a clubhouse of sufficient size to accommodate seventy-five persons. It occupies a site adjacent to the lake.

The officers for this year are David L. Adams, President, Glenn C. Sheffor, vice-president, Fred T. Larson, treasurer, and C. Lynn Coy, secretary. Among the members of the club are Ralph Pearson, Walter M. Clute, J. Jeffrey Grant, Otto Hake, Alfred Janssen, F. X. Leyendecker, Lawrence Mazzanovich, Karl Ouren, Sigurd Schou, Oswold Cooper, and Charles J. Mulligan.


Some observations:

* Charles J. Mulligan, who was distinguished enough to have been head of the sculpture department at the Art Institute, had been dead 5 years when this article was written - so I'm questioning how accurate Eleanor Jewett was trying to be. (and note how bloated her prose tends to be -- especially in the first, painful paragraph. Was she getting paid by the word ?)

*Eleanor notes that the membership as of 1921 was 400 -- but if she's including dead people like Charles Mulligan, we must be skeptical of that figure

*Note how she refers to the "Bohemian" atmosphere in the club's studios. This is the word that current art historians are applying to the P&C of that era -- to distinguish it from either the Modernists or the Classicists.

*Note how, over the past few decades, Eleanor's call for "volunteer gardeners" has finally been answered.

*Note the emphasis on the clubs entertainments -- these really were considered newsworthy -- and here she is recalling some that were 20 years old.

*Also note what is missing: no mention of the club as a hotbed of modernism around 1915 -- and no mention of how the club managed to purchase the building -- which, historically, is the primary reason the organization still exists.

*And whatever happened to the P&C neighborhood as Chicago's "Greenwich Village" ?
It certainly is gentrified now!

The Demise of the 3Arts Club

Both the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Reader
featured stories this month about the conversion of the historic
Three Arts Club
from a women artists residence into an
arts grant organization

The Palette and Chisel
will remember its elegant neighbor fondly
as the source for so many
artist models

(like April, the dramaturg,
who served there as a kind of resident manager
and later moved West to a career
in the film industry)

For a while,
residents, upset about their eviction,
met in the Palette and Chisel library
to strategize their attempt
to return the organization to
its original mission.

But now it seems
their hopes have been dashed
as the building has been sold to developers
who will transform the historic building into
a luxury private club for the glitterati.

As someone commented in the Reader:

"Time and again I have seen not-for-profit cultural, educational, charitable institutions etc. ruined because the board of directors gets to choose the board of directors in perpetuity and cliques emerge and take control with their own personal agenda."

And that is ultimately the story
of every cultural organization in America,
(including the Art Institute of Chicago )

except, of course,

for the Palette and Chisel
where the board is still elected by the
community it serves.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Spring Cleaning 2008

Walter Monastyretsky

It was time,
yet again,
for the bargain basement
painting show

which actually does bring in some good income for the P&C
as well as for the painters who might
sell a dozen of their works in one day.

Here's my picks
(though I came too late
for the ones already sold)

Jim Hajicek

Leslie Outten

(another corner of Le Grand Jette ?)

Mary Qian

(she's gone,
but not forgotten)

Mary Qian

Fran Mazur

Here's something unique at the P&C,
a floral in grisaille

Fran Mazur

Moissei Liangleben

Our old Russian
has kindly provided us
with a gallery
of former models

like April, pictured above

Moissei Liangleben

Here's Natanya,
who recently retired
(to get a "real" job)

Moissei Liangleben

And here's Candice,
who was really a remarkable actress

(and regrettfully,
there's myself
as the ghostly image
reflected on the glass)

Moissei Liangleben

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Rudolph Weisenborn

Portrait of Rudolph Weisenborn (1881-1974)
by Stanislaus Szukalski, 1919

In some ways,
Rudolph Weisenborn was the ideal
member of an art club --
because he was so committed to the cause of art,
and he wasn't just looking for personal benefit.

But in other ways,
he was an impossible member,
because he was such an extremist.

So he made a good companion,
(and possibly the only companion)
Stanislav Szukalski
the great Chicago Wunderkind, autodidact, and seer.

His great dream was to create
a "Gallery of Living Artists"

as depicted in his above drawing,
where he depicted an eager artist
approaching the temple of self expression.

And that's pretty much was Rudolph's ideology:
self expression,
as realized in the the three organizations he helped to found:

*the No-jury Society
*The Cor-Ardens (the ardent hearts)
*The Neo-Arlimusic (art-literature-music)

He was indefatigable in throwing costume balls
to raise money for his dream,

including selling raffle tickets for his
above portrait of Clarence Darrow

Finally, in February 1928
it all came together with a special exhibit
for the benefit of the renowned art critic
Julius Meier-Graefe

With former P&C member Carl Hoeckner
acting as translator,
Meier-Graefe was introduced to the exhibit,
but was reported to have
"failed to find anything significant"

After that,
Rudolph seems to have limited his interest in art
to just painting and teaching.


According to the Susan Weininger essay in
"The Old Guard and Avant-garde",

"Weisenborn, who was orphaned at nine, lived in various midwestern locations before settling in Colorado, where he eventually enrolled in the Student's School of Art and paid his tuition with money earned working as a janitor. He learned to paint in an academic manner which is evidenced by his self portrait of 1903; we know that he was very proud that his work suggested Rembrandt's style. He arrived in Chicago in 1913 wearing six shooters and a Stetson hat"

Weininger continued with a critical evaluation that ran:

"It is in the work of Weisenborn, an artist who spent the majority of his adult life in Chicago, that we see the emergence of a true Chicago modernism. Although an unfortunate fire in his studio in 1922 destroyed much of his early work --- his portraits --manifest the variant on cubism that evolved with his work. While lacking the intellectual rigor of the European style, they have a forceful, dynamic vigor that conveys a tense and unyielding energy resonating with the life of the modern city"

I like the description of "tense unyielding energy",
(which is not especially appealing to me)
but wonder just how "intellectual rigor"
can be proven present or absent
except in the writing of a critic.









Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Palette and Chisel Modernists

"Parade of Chicago Artists to the No-Jury Artists Cubist Ball" - 1923

The Palette and Chisel has never been
especially academic,
either 100 years ago when that meant Renaissance/Classical
or today when academic means conceptual/transgressive,

but neither has it been strongly identified
with whatever could be called Modernism

except for a brief period 1915-1920
when three of Chicago's pioneering modernists
were members of the club.

Regretfully,  there was some dispute over whether
a certain painting should be juried into a P&C exhibit,
the modernists vetoed it but were over-ruled,
and they quit in bitter protest,
and began their own No-Jury Society.

It doesn't make a lot of sense,
and that society didn't last very long,
but they were all kind of young and wild in those days.

Carl Hoeckner

"conceals behind the most amiable of
bourgeois personalities and the handsomest
of rotund German masks, the presidency of the
Heaven annointed Int'l Brotherhood of Cor-Ardens
(bleating hearts), and a predilection for black gloomy
visions with horrible emaciated figures."

(the Cor-Ardens was a another new art club of the time,
but it only lasted about a year or two)

Ramon Shiva

"The fiery sputtering Spanish Valentino
has a family - but also supports them.
Uses gorgeous colors gorgeously"

(he was also a trained chemist
who developed the Shiva brand of Oil paints)

Rudolph Weisenborn

"Chief poo-bah or Trotzky of the insurgents.
Instigator and President of the No-Jury Society.
His first masterpiece covered sixty-three square feet
including the frame,and was covered with $10,000.00
worth of paint. After a series of portentous portraits
in charcoal, he is devoting the next 10 years to a
second masterpiece"

In the history of modern art in Chicago,
these are the only P&C members worthy of mention,
but even today,
when Modern Art has been canonical for almost 80 years,
the cash value of their paintings is negligible
compared to their more conservative colleagues.

A Weisenborn self-portrait, for example,
recently sold at auction for $400,
while an Edgar Payne mountain landscape
went for $130,000.

(more about these three fellows will be presented later)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The First Female Member

Contrary to whatever else
has been reported on this site,

Eleanor Jewett (1872-1963)

was the first woman to be honored
with membership by the Palette and Chisel
(albeit an honorary membership)

as reported by the Chicago American , October 30, 1955.

"Artists' Academy Opens Doors to First Woman"

in recognition of

"her outstanding encouragement and help to art and artists ofChicago."

12 months later, Ms. Jewett would retire
after serving since 1917
as the art critic of the Chicago Tribune,
a paper then owned by her cousin,
Colonel Robert R. McCormick.

So, evidentially
Eleanor got this job through "the back door",
especially since she had no formal training
in either art or art history.

She just loved beautiful things,
which included the paintings
made by members of the Palette and Chisel Club.

She was an upper-class, Winnetka lady
who shared the values of the civic leaders
who had built the Art Institute to offer
"more of Beauty and less of Ugliness"

She became famous (or notorious)
for her advocacy of artists
who did not keep up with the trends of Modernism
as they were being defined in New York or Paris.

But she sometimes found beauty
even among some of Chicago's modernists,
like Raymond Jonson
whose work she called
"new, daring, and lovely"

But that was not enough
to keep her from being the designated villain
in the history of modern art in Chicago.

(an excellent survey is:

The Old Guard and the Avante-Garde:

Modernism in Chicago 1910-1940

edited by Sue Ann Prince)

The problem was....

Eleanor hated ugliness.

So... for example
she wrote the following column,

"What Price Genius in the Guise that is Mestrovic's"
on May 24, 1925:

ANOTHER two weeks will see the close of the most brilliant
and the most revolting exhibitions that the Art institute
galleries have held this year....
It is impossible to become enthused over the Maestrovic sculpture.
Familiarity with it breeds disgust.
It sickens you - those long, rasping, crooked hands
of the crucified Savior... those feeble, imbecile,
drawn faces of the angels.. the wasted, attenuated
Egyptian heads of Virgin and Child... Why such sculpture
should be permitted to be exhibited in a public gallery...
passes the understanding. It is a vicious influence. The mastery
of technique and independence of thought, the qualities that
it great enough to command an almost universal chant of

though should not be enough to blind one to its malignity.

She didn't mince words, did she ?

She might recognize
"mastery of technique and independence of thought"
but if the results made her feel bad,
(especially regarding such a profound subject)
she identified it as "vicious"

Her great antagonist was Katherine Kuh
who ran a Modern Art gallery on Michigan Ave
and eventually became a curator at the A.I.C.
(after sleeping with the director, Daniel Catton Rich)

As Katherine recalled:

"She became a terrible enemy of the gallery. Here we were living in a marvelous period when the great artists from Europe were developing a new visual language, really a new philosophy, and she was hell bent on destroying them"

For example, regarding Paul Klee, who was given a show by Katherine Kuh in 1937, Eleanor Jewett wrote:

"Mrs. Kuh is extremely proud of it, and considers it one of the most important shows her gallery has brought to Chicago... she speaks of the exquisite and imaginative quality of the work. Of this, you must judge in person... it seems to us as tho when a man has spent such time and effort wiping out all intelligence from his work that it is highly improper for the spectator to read meaning into it. Therefore, out of respect, we will desist from effort"

But she was a loyal friend
to all those who made things
that she enjoyed,
and she would even accompany her reviews
with short poems of praise
(just as colophons were once appended to
the scrolls of Chinese painting)

She was really an aesthete,
rather than an art critic
like her lifelong adversary
on the Chicago art scene,
Clarence J. Bulliet
(who also, BTW, brought attention to
many Palette and Chisel painters)

She loved the Palette and Chisel,
and eventually
the P&C returned the favor.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Joseph Kleitsch

For some reason,
I've failed to pay much attention
to Joseph Kleitsch (1882-1931)

one of the most famous members of the P&C

(and doesn't the above Midwestern landscape
resemble what Ingerle, Krafft et al.
were doing around 1915 ?)

Maybe that's because in 1920
he moved to Laguna Beach, Ca.
and became one of the most famous
California Impressionists.

(But he was something of a gypsy,
and didn't live there
any longer than he did in Chicago.)

He did a great job with a moody ocean-sky-shore

and he painted the surf
like Monet, Renoir etc.

But what really carried his career
were his portraits,
which brought him from Hungary
to Germany
to Cincinnati
to Denver
to Mexico
to Hutchinson Kansas (?)
and finally to Chicago in 1914
where he joined the Palette and Chisel
and attended the Art Institute.
(note: he was a very active member of the P&C
as you will discover if you search his name
on this blog)

and wow,
what a figure painter!

I think he also worked
alla prima

and did plein aire
just like so many members of the P&C today

traveling around to find scenic views

and later spending 3 years in Europe.
(though I don't think our current crop of scenic painters
would focus on homeless people
living under a bridge in Paris)

and he did still life,
indeed most of what he did,
our P&C painters of today
are still doing.

(and maybe in 80 years,
some of our paintings will be
selling for half-a-million
like his are doing today)

Here's his respectable self portrait

and here's his real personality
(might we call him a "mad Hungarian?")

We need a few more people like this
attending our Quarterly meetings!

And I suppose
this is what he really looked like

(note: the largest online collection of his work can be found at " )