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.|
Text and captions copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley