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!


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