Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Palette & Chisel

Walking down Dearborn on our way from the Chicago Historical Society to lunch at the Arts Club of Chicago--after a bitter disappointment in front of a padlocked entrance to the now-shuttered Three Arts Club recommended for its courtyard in our 2006 Rough Guide to Chicago--someone I know and I stumbled across The Palette & Chisel Club, located in a beautiful old townhouse, perfectly preserved, as if in amber, with an art gallery instead of living and dining rooms. Definitely worth a visit. Official description on their website:
The founding members were evening students at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1895. They wanted to paint from the model under daylight, which was rather difficult since most of them worked six days a week and the Art Institute did not offer Sunday programs. Charles J. Mulligan, a member of this group, was an assistant to sculptor Lorado Taft. He was able to persuade Taft to rent the fledgling organization part of his seventh floor studio in the old Athenaeum Building on Van Buren Street in Chicago. Taft was in the habit of maintaining large, ostentatious studios - more to impress prospective clients than from need for such space. Within a short time, the Palette & Chisel membership multiplied.

In 1921, to accommodate their burgeoning numbers, members pooled their money and purchased a three story Italianate mansion at 1012 North Dearborn. It was one of the first buildings to be built in the neighborhood after the great fire of 1871. Founding member Fred Larson and several others guaranteed the mortgage using their own homes as collateral.

Early supporters of the organization included: Charlie Russel, Alphonse Mucha (a leader of the art nouveau movement), William Merrit Chase and George Bellows. Though largely a group of amateurs, the Palette & Chisel quickly began to produce artists with their own singular vision. Walter Ufer, Victor Higgins, and Martin Hennings began their art careers at the Palette & Chisel and later became famous in the West as painters in the Taos School. Later, the Palette & Chisel served as the artistic home of J. Jeffrey Grant, James Topping, Rudolph Ingerle, Eugene Savage and muralist Otto Hake. The first woman member, Ruth Van Sickle Ford, was accepted in 1961.

A contemporary survey of members would include: internationally recognized artist Richard Schmid, who served as president of the Palette & Chisel from 1986-1989; marine painter Charles Vickery; super-realist George Fischer; sculptors Margot McMahon and Patrick McKearnon.