Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Frank Hensley - A recollection

Frank Hensley - A Recollection by Rich Morrow

Frank Hensley was a rambler.

He spent the better part of his retirement years crisscrossing the country visiting friends and relatives, but mostly visiting museums and galleries, many of them on the west coast and in the southwest.

He was the Palette & Chisel's unofficial historian and he knew a lot about the early membership of the Academy, especially those artists who had moved west; not just the Taos painters Ufer, Hennings, and Higgins, but also a colony that established itself in Laguna Beach, CA and included more obscure painters like Hanson Puthuff. Frank sought out museums that had works by these artists and was on the look out for gallery shows that included them. He had an extensive collection of catalogs from these shows and others which featured artists from the golden age of American illustration. He would frequently bring these catalogs to Wednesday and Friday evening quick sketch sessions and it became a standing joke to ask him the exact dates of his next road trip, the implication being that we would break into his apartment and steal his catalog collection while he was out of town.

Frank was not born in a log cabin only because there were no logs in eastern Montana where his parents had moved and taken up homesteading. He was born in a sod house, however, and spent his early years there until he was sent off to school in a neighboring town. One can only imagine how hard the winters must have been living in a sod house in Montana!

After high school, Frank enlisted in the Army Air Corps and saw action in the Pacific theater during World War II. He described to me on several occasions his being assigned to a detail whose job was to clean up the crash site of an airplane that had exploded on takeoff. He told of the eerie and revolting experience of collecting body parts strewn along the runway. He expressed relief that the war was ended abruptly by the detonation of atomic weapons because, as he put it, neither he nor any of his mates in the squadron expected to return to the States alive.

After the war, Frank got work doing illustration in St. Louis for a brief time before moving on to Chicago where he spent the remaining 55 years of his life.
When he found out I was from St. Louis, the opening remark of every conversation we had would either be about St. Louis or about some P&C member who
had moved out west.

Frank spent his entire commercial career in Chicago as an illustrator at Leo Burnett. In the trade, he was what is known as "a wrist", an illustrator who can draw anything and everything on short notice. He also did magazine work including covers for American Legion Magazine. He was an accomplished pastelist who was never quite satisfied with his own work. I have seen more than one quick sketch model rescue a beautiful drawing of herself from the trash can where Frank had deposited it. He steadfastly avoided male models and always wanted to know the name of next week's model. I was delighted to have a little fun with him whenever the model had an androgynous name like Chris or Pat. Frank also rambled when he talked. Everything he said seemed to remind him of something else, so that a description of a painting with a horse in it might lead to a recollection of a horse he had ridden in a national park leading to a survey of national parks in the southwest followed by a comparison of the southwest climate to that of California leading to an observation of the preponderance of horses in the paintings of a certain California artist. Somehow, the conversation always seemed to come full circle. The tangents were all linked together with the conjunction "of course" which Frank employed in much the same way a cab driver leaves the rear end of his taxi sticking out into the middle lane while discharging a passenger in the curb lane so that he will have an open lane in which to drive away. The "of courses" were meant to keep you from getting a word in edgewise. Many people did not have the patience for these one sided conversations, but I found them to have an endearing quality and learned early on that I was going to be there awhile until he finished.

A perhaps apocryphal story along these lines involves a visit to one of Frank's favorite museums, Wauwatosa in Milwaukee. He attended an exhibition there with a colleague from the Academy and as they were leaving Milwaukee by car, the colleague asked Frank how he liked the exhibition. As the story goes, the colleague claims that Frank was still answering the question when they reached the Chicago city limits!

Frank was one of the longest extant members of the P&C at the time of his ~ death. He joined the Academy some time in the 1950s. He developed bone marrow cancer about the year 2003 and I recall him looking very ghostly at that time. With chemotherapy, he seemed to regain his old vigor and coloration and as soon as he felt well enough, headed back out on the road. Frank preferred Motel 6 for lodging as he logged the long miles to favorite destinations like Bartlesville OK, or Sedona AZ, or Laguna Beach CA.

He also liked to visit former P&C president Diana Farran's studio in Greenville MI and last summer showed up unannounced at the back door of my little country house in New Salem IL. I gave him a tour of the house (as much a tour as a five room house permits) and as we walked out onto the front porch, he abruptly bid me goodbye and, despite my protests, drove away.

He was at my place all of ten minutes and after he had gone, I thought to myself: "Now isn't that just like Frank?"

A boy in Montana

Portrait of Frank Hensley
by Roger Akers

More photos can be found here

Marathon: Memorial Day 2008

I asked Brian Kotwica
to perhaps
include some of the artists
in his sketches of the models today.

(the big burly guy is Rich Morrow,
who, with his sous-chef, Ann McMurray,
was grilling some of the best
burgers the Marathon
has ever tasted)

and these are the results.

All of these artists
are recognizable to me,
but, alas, I only know a few names
and many of them are not members.

(above is Henry Maron
who used to be a member)

(though I think we all recognize
the acrobatic model who
in swinging from ropes)

The tradition of old guys looking at pretty girls
is an old one at the Palette and Chisel
... will undoubtedly last
as long as we do.

But not all the models are up on the platform any more.

Suzanne Sheridan modeled in the morning,
but then pulled out a sketch pad
to make drawings in the afternoon.
(like the one shown above)

Bob Simonelli

Larry Paulsen

Lenin Del Sol

Lenin Del Sol

Peggy Sanders

George Schmitt

George Schmitt

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Exhibit: Christina Body

of Chicago streets

including another great Winter scene

(we've had so many this year!)

Portraits of Chicago streets

Note: this exhibit was reviewed by Alan Artner of the Chicago Tribune

And quoted as follows:

Nowadays, things are different.
More than 20 years of emphasis on
sexual, racial and political themes
have reopened the way less
charged content as well, and representational
artists again are
known as much for their subject
matter as how they set it down. An
example is Christina Body’s large
exhibition of paintings at the Palette
& Chisel Academy of Fine
Arts, which includes landscapes
and marine studies but nonetheless
marks her as a painter of the
city and, specifically, Chicago.
Body addresses both landmarks
and nondescript buildings, occasionally
from the high viewpoints
favored by early moderns. Some
pieces emphasize the spaces between
structures, others celebrate
the overlooked poetry of creations
such as the expressway, still others
capture seasonal atmosphere in an
urban setting. The landscapes and
boating pictures are no less able
than the others, but the overriding
subject is Chicago, and in a work
such as “Bend,” it holds a strong
attraction. (To view the artist’s
images, visit www.christinabody.
At 1012 N. Dearborn St. 312-642-

(which - until proven otherwise -
might be the first time a critic from the Trib,
or any other city newspaper,
has reviewed an exhibit at the P&C
since Eleanor Jewett retired in 1956)

(part of the courtyard garden,
not the exhibit,
but what a spectacular bloom
it was)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Bandar Log Press

As Stuart explained in his lecture at last month's openhouse
Frank Holme (1868-1904)
was a prime mover in the creative life of the Palette and Chisel
during the brief time he was a member, c. 1897-1902.

Growing up in Keyer, West Virginia,
a tiny railroad town in the mountains,
half-way between Pittsburgh and Washington,
Holme worked as a newspaper sketch artist
in Wheeling and eventually Chicago.

(we've written about his drawings for the
infamous Sausage-vat murder trial here )

An ambitious fellow,
he also started an art school
and a small publishing company

called the Bandar Log Press

named after the bandar logs (monkey people)
found in Kipling's "Jungle Book"

"Here we sit in a branchy row,
Thinking of beautiful things we know;
Dreaming of deeds that we mean to do,
All complete, in a minute or two--
Something noble and wise and good,
Done by merely wishing we could.
We've forgotten, but--never mind,
Brother, thy tail hangs down behind!"

(which mad-cap attitude seems to have
pervaded everything he did)

Driven from Chicago by his failing health,
one of the last projects of the press
was "The Strenulous Lads Library",
some very short, and very small

written by George Ade ,
that gently satirize American ideals.

They're kind of like
the super-hero comic books
of later decades -- but not quite.

They don't seem to be aimed at the children's market,
and with a total run of 350 copies each,
they're not aimed at much of a market at all.

But they did become a public company,
and here's a list of shareholders,
including some famous writers (Tarkington - and later Mark Twain)
as well as members of the P&C
(the Leyendeckers and Mazzanovich)

What brave boys
these strenuous lads were!

often equipped with special powers - like hypnotism

to defeat the evil-doers
of which the world
seems to be chock full

or perhaps they have a special talent
for invention

and again, use those inventions
to defeat
some very dangerous,
and very bad adults

while living their young lives
on the edge.

Frank Holme was living his
young life on the edge, too,
and he died in Denver,
from tuberculosis,
the following year,
at the age of 36.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Nuptuals at the Palette

Springtime in the courtyard,
perhaps the most romantic pair models
we've had in several years.

(an impromptu shot
made through the
blinds of the coach house windows)

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Samuel Stoltz

Samuel Stoltz was a member of the Palette and Chisel
back in the first decade of the last century
- and that's about all we know about him.

Except that, as pictured above,
he sometimes painted hands with six fingers
and he volunteered to help refurbish the new club rooms
at the Athenaeum Building.

And he also, apparently, had a career as an illustrator
for magazines or newspapers.

His niece, however, has recently contacted ThisOldPalette
-- and we are hoping that more information will be forthcoming.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Exhibit: Charlotte Arnold

Her figure drawing
and plein air paintings
have caught my attention
earlier this year.

I'm so glad she finally had her own exhibit