Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Albert A. Matzke (1881-1947)

Part Two

Sometime between September 1918 and January 1920, Albert Adolph Matzke entered Manhattan State Hospital, a psychiatric facility located on Wards Island, between Manhattan and Queens. He was in his late thirties and recently divorced at the time of his hospitalization. The enumerator of the federal census entered his name in her big book on January 9, 1920, alongside dozens of other patients. Three days earlier, Matzke's ex-wife, Prudence Gruelle, was counted along with her family in Norwalk, Connecticut. She had remarried sometime in the late 1910s. Her new husband, Lenonard Brown, worked in a hat factory, and her young daughter Peggy was almost three years old. If anyone today knows what happened in the Gruelle family at the time, they haven't said. In any case, Albert Matzke and Prudence Gruelle had gone their separate ways.

Matzke may have returned to the outside world sometime in the early 1920s. His illustrations appeared again in magazines--Everybody's, Metropolitan, and Scribner's--between 1921 and 1923. He also remarried, not once but twice. One of his marriages came an went: on April 28, 1928, a notice in the Indianapolis Star stated that Matzke had filed for divorce from his wife, Odette M.B. Matzke. Later that year, in October 1928, he made a trip from New York to London on board the S.S. American Trader. Whatever the purpose of his trip, he returned stateside with a new wife, young Gladys M. Adams, whom he had married in Kensington in early 1929. By 1930, Matzke had returned to his hometown, Indianapolis, where he kept his own studio and lived with his wife, their young son, and his mother, Mary, who passed away in 1937. (Her husband, Julius Matzke, had died in 1926.) By the early 1940s, Matzke had become the owner and manager of an apartment house in Indianapolis.

Albert A. Matzke died on November 16, 1947, in Indianapolis. His family is buried at Crown Hill Cemetery, but Matzke is not. In 1959, Matzke's widow, Gladys Matzke, funded the Albert Matzke Painting Studio at the Emison Art Center at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. That studio is no longer in existence. Gladys M. Adams Matzke Chatt died on December 30, 2002, in Wilmington, North Carolina. Her life had encompassed almost the entire twentieth century.

People bored by history and biography are bored by places, dates, and names, all the minutiae spooned out by uninspired teachers and dry, dusty text books. They mistake the yellowed scraps and worn artifacts of the past for living, breathing history. Unfortunately, those scraps are too often all that's left of the real and immediate passions, pleasures, and pains of past lives. And so we reconstruct what we can.

Long before Marilyn Monroe and The Seven Year Itch, women's skirts were lifted by updrafts. Like many cartoons of the day, Matzke's has two parts: an accomplished drawing and a mild pun for a gag.
Another drawing by Indiana illustrator Albert Matzke. Both are from Judge, circa 1910, happier days for the young artist.


Update (Apr. 12, 2016): Albert Matzke and Prudence Gruelle together, from an item in the Indianapolis News, February 27, 1915, page 19. So Matzke was also a violinist.

Text and captions copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, May 16, 2011

Albert A. Matzke (1881-1947)

Part One

Illustrator Albert A. Matzke married into one of the most prominent families in the history of Indiana art, yet after a promising start, he disappeared from view. The family were the Gruelles and they were painters, illustrators, cartoonists, and makers of Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls, books, and merchandise. The patriarch of the Gruelle family was Richard Buckner Gruelle (1851-1914), a member of the renowned Hoosier Group that included T.C. Steele, J. Ottis Adams, William Forsyth, and Otto Stark. Gruelle and his wife, Alice Benton Gruelle, had three children, artists all. Johnny Gruelle (1880-1938) was of course the creator of Raggedy Ann and Andy. He was also a cartoonist, illustrator, and painter, as was his younger brother Justin (1889-1978). Prudence Gruelle (1884-1966) shared in the family's talent for art, but she was also a singer and won scholarships to the Grand Conservatory of Music and the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. She sang for a time with the Aborn Opera Company, but sometime around 1910 she went on the vaudeville circuit as "Prudence Grue, The Singing Cartoonist." She was on hand in 1910 when the Gruelle family purchased a piece of property in Silvermine, Connecticut. That property included an old mill they would use as their studio. One of the artists who would share that studio was Albert Matzke.

Albert Adolph Matzke was born on August 8, 1881, in Indianapolis and attended the new Manual Training High School as the nineteenth century came to a close. He studied art under Otto Stark and Richard B. Gruelle and was already an illustrator for an Indianapolis newspaper at age eighteen. Sometime around the turn of the century, Matzke set off for New York and its Art Students League, where his teachers included Frank V. Dumond and George Bridgman. As early as 1903 and as late as 1907, Matzke was a member of the faculty at the Art Students League. As an illustrator, he contributed to Judge and other magazines of the early twentieth century. He also illustrated a number of books during the 1910s. At the outset of World War I, he was teaching high school and illustrating magazines for the Crowell Publishing Company in New York, publishers of Woman's Home Companion and The American Magazine. And then he seems to have disappeared.

Biographers of the Gruelle family have almost nothing to say about Albert Matzke. They have only a little more to say about his wife, Prudence Gruelle. Although both came from Indiana, they also both studied in New York, and both were members of the thriving art colony at Silvermine. Yet there isn't any mention of how or where they met or of when or where they were married. By 1910, Prudence Gruelle was sharing a home (in Manhattan) and a last name with Albert Matzke. Within a decade they were divorced. By 1920, Prudence was remarried (to a man named Lenonard Brown) and had a two-year-old-daughter. And Albert Matzke? He dropped out of sight. Only recently did I find out where he went.

Albert Matzke's frontispiece for The Woman of Mystery (1916) by Maurice Leblanc. This is one of several books illustrated by Matzke between 1915 and 1917--before he disappeared from view. 
Matzke's wife, Prudence Gruelle, was something of a mystery herself. Though known on the vaudeville stage as "Prudence Grue, The Singing Cartoonist," she was trained as a singer of opera and classical music. In 1912, her remarkable profile was displayed on the cover of the sheet music for "In Dixie Land with Dixie Lou." The decorations on the cover are by an artist named Starmer. 

Text and captions copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley

Friday, May 6, 2011

Arthur Sinclair Covey (1877-1960)

Arthur Sinclair Covey was born on June 13, 1877, in Leroy, Illinois, and was reared in Missouri and in El Dorado, Kansas.  In 1893, Covey "made the run" with the opening of the Cherokee Strip in Oklahoma. He followed up a year at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas, with art studies in Chicago, Paris, and Munich between 1897 and 1908.

Living in Indianapolis at the turn of the century, Covey drew pictures for the Indianapolis Press before moving on to the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1901. He provided illustrations for magazines, including a series of covers for The American Magazine, during the early part of the century, but he found his life's work in painting murals. His first individual commission was for the Wichita Public Library in 1914. Perhaps his best known series is at the Kohler Company offices in Kohler, Wisconsin. That series, completed in 1921-1922, is the subject of a fine article in the Wisconsin Magazine of History, Winter 2009-2010.

Covey married artists in succession. His first wife, Mary Dorothea Sale (d. 1917), was a British citizen and a student of Frank Brangwyn in London, as Covey himself was between 1905 and 1908. In 1921, Covey married Lois Lenski (1893-1974), a children's book author and illustrator famous for her Mr. Small series. In 1928, the couple bought an eighteenth-century house in Harwinton, Connecticut. Called "Greenacres," it would be their home for the rest of Arthur S. Covey's life. One of his last major works was the ceiling of the Trinity Lutheran Church in Worcester, Massachusetts, executed in 1951 when he was seventy-four years old. Covey died nearly a decade later, on February 5, 1960.

"The Run," a lithograph by Arthur Sinclair Covey showing the run on the Cherokee Strip in Oklahoma, 1893, in which the artist took part.
"Work," an etching by Covey which appeared in the Sunday Magazine of the Sunday Star, Washington, D.C., August 31, 1913.
A drawing by Covey on the subject of work. It may be a study for a mural, but I don't know the date of the drawing.
Covey's second wife was author and illustrator Lois Lenski. Every child who grew up between the 1930s and the 1970s remembers her Mr. Small series, of which there were ten titles. Policeman Small (1962) was the last.

Text and captions copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley