Members of the Palette and Chisel Club
The Palette and Chisel Club (renamed the Palette and Chisel Academy of Fine Arts in 1933) was founded in Chicago in 1895 by several commercial artists with fine art aspirations. Students in the Art Institute of Chicago’s evening class, they joined together for Sunday sketching sessions in order to work in color from a live model under daylight conditions. The club soon became an important gathering place for social activities and independent exhibitions, along with outdoor sketching excursions. Associated by the 1920s with artistic conservatism, the Palette and Chisel survives as one of the nation’s longest-lived artists’ cooperative organizations, with an active program of classes and exhibitions.
By 1910 the Palette and Chisel Club had achieved maturity and a respected place on Chicago’s art scene, in which it served as a bastion of genteel bohemianism. Its original membership of ten had grown to a select one hundred active members whose work could be seen in two regularly scheduled exhibitions each year. Its members included professionals in such fields as design, illustration, and theatrical painting; others were pursuing serious careers as painters or sculptors; and many balanced the two. In 1910 the artists who painted the Schwartz Collection’s group self-portrait were typical in the diversity of their pursuits, which ranged from gallery work, in Harry Engle’s case, to theatrical stage painting, for which Victor Higgins was then noted. At the time, the seven were mostly in their thirties or early forties, and they included several rising leaders of the Palette and Chisel. Between 1906 and 1911, August Petrtyl, Harry Engle, Otto Hake, and L. O. Griffith served successively as club presidents, and John E. Phillips would become secretary in 1915. Higgins and Rudolph Ingerle, who by 1910 had each debuted in the Art Institute’s annual exhibitions, would secure their reputations as painters by mid-decade, with Higgins winning the Palette and Chisel’s gold medal in 1913.
Wendy Greenhouse, PhD