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

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