From Munich to Chicago and beyond.
Grell’s connection to other prominent European trained and successful artists travels far beyond Chicago. The main group from the American Artists’ Club in Munich relocated to Chicago after America’s involvement in the war became a reality. The American Artists’ Club was organized by William Merritt Chase in 1873-74 with founding members including Frank Duveneck and J. Frank Currier. By 1912 the club included such prominent figures as Carl Bohnen, Eugene Savage, Richard Fayerweather Babcock, Victor Higgins, Walter Ufer with young good friends E. Martin Hennings and Louis Grell. The club met regularly at Cafe Glasl.
By September 1916, Grell was living in studio number 14 at Tree Studios with E. Martin Hennings and sent a postcard to his sister proclaiming that he was a ‘main’ instructor at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and had a number or scholars under him. Grell was rooming with Hennings who had arrived before Grell and joined fellow Munich art club members Higgins and Ufer already in Chicago continuing to exhibit together throughout Chicago as they did in Europe. In 1922, Hennings and his later wife Helen would join Grell and Friedl during their wedding day celebration at Tree Studios.
Hennings and Grell were instructors at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts with other instructors such as artist Frederick M. Grant, cartoonists’ Carey Orr, Will ‘Billy’ De Beck, Leroy Gossett, and artist Paul Bartlett (Catalogue of the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, Carl N. Werntz Director, effective September 1, 1920).
American Artists’ Club, Munich 1912 photo postcard (not postmarked) with members Carl Bohnen, J. Ernest Dean, Walter O.R. Korder, John M. Imhof, Richard Fayerweather Babcock, Bennet S. Linder, Herbert E. Martin, Eugene Savage, Walter Ufer, E. Martin Hennings, Victor Higgins and Louis Grell. Seated two down to Grells right is Savage. This very rare signed photo-card usually shows sixteen members. It is believed that only eight were signed by many of the prominent members. This particular photo of the club is filled with character as the artists exhibit the comical side of their “school days” as seen by Richard Fayerweather Babcock holding a deployed umbrella indoors and Ufer with the beer label pined to his chin as he holds a Cafe Glasl sign around the bar maiden.
A day at the Beach in 1917 with J. Allen St. John, E. Martin Hennings, Carl Hoeckner, Gretchen Fricke, George H. Thomas (or Tomas in German) and others enjoy a day of fun and sun at the shores of Lake Michigan.
Louis Grell & Fredricka’s wedding day photo, April 1, 1922 with E. Martin and Mabel (Helen) Otte Hennings, portrait artist Paul Trebilcock and others. They were married at Tree Studios by Cook County Superior Court Judge Charles M. Foell who, in 1920, gained national fame presiding over the $100m estate of Capt. Marshall Field.
The other man with Hennings, Grell & Hoeckner likely is George Hamilton Thomas (or Tomas as written on the photo by Friedl) based on the newspaper article reproduced here.
The Oasis in Bohemia, Chicago Daily Tribune, September 29, 1948 article says it all! Look for the Grant Wood and Walt Disney connection to the Tree Studios artist colony.
During the summer of 1917 as featured here in the beach and Tree Studios garden photos, Grell painted Portrait of the artists’ sister, Helen as confirmed by observing the skirt she was wearing in some of the photos reproduced above.
The ‘waif’ referenced in the article is presumably the 13 year old boy in the group picture with St. John in the garden courtyard. He was abandoned on the door steps of Tree Studios in 1903, legally adopted by a group of six artists and raised at Tree Studios where children were forbidden at the time and named Rembrandt Michelangelo Tree Torrey the First. Torrey was the last name of a sculptor who’s wife would be appointed chief caregiver. All images in the Grell Family collection are Copyright protected!
The American Artist Club autographed photo along with Grell’s membership card and his XI annual Munich Exhibition entry card were all donated by Richard Grell to the PACE art center located in Council Bluffs, IA in 2023. The three wonderful archives, all displayed in one double-sided glass frame, will be added to the PACE archives and placed on exhibit.
watch the Louis Frederick Grell video here
watch video on cartoonists’ with the Chicago Tribune here