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.

To be concluded . . .

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


  1. i am thrilled to see your site and your blog about Prudence Gruelle. I, too, have felt the same way as you about her and that she does not seem to get the publicity about her work like her other illustrious family members. Prudence was a friend and neighbor of my mother and grandmother in Fla. in the late 1940's and they must have been pretty friendly as they would only refer to her as Prudie. My parents left Fl. due to a hurricane that frightened my father and so back to Cinti the family went except for my grandmother at the time. I am telling way too much here so here is what I would like to say. I have two watercolor paintings done by Prudence and given to my mother and grandmother; one a Fl scene and the other a midwestern winter scene like we have here. I am 62 years old and these paintings have been in every home I have ever lived in. I never see anything of Prudence' work online but I have researched her extensively and had the honor to speak to one of her daughters and a nephew of Justin's; I must say they were very kind and thoughtful to me. My question for you is would you like to have a look at these paintings and if you like put them on your webpage since there is so littl about Prudie online. She was an author as you know, she also used the name Blanche Silver, she had a serialized newspaper column about the Good Night Stories for children which was a big hit from what my research has shown. I found a photo in a newspaper of a Vaudeville ticket showing that she is on the same show that Sid Chaplain is and as the singing cartoonist of course; her husband leonard Brown was also involved in that show; from what I have been told ripping off the cartoons she had drawn while singing I suppose and then probably given to someone but that is just supposition. I have read where Prudie had taught Justin some brush strokes and I know what a kind person she must have been just from conversations with my mom and my sister who also received a miniature painting done by Prudence on just a plain piece of paper and it is in the original frame it was in when given to my sister. The three are all in the original frames. I would like to see at least some of her work online and wonder if you would like to post a couple of the items I have after you see them of course since you are the only person besides myself so interested in Prudence besides her family I am sure. She deserves more than she has received; you hardly ever hear of her helping to sew the first Raggedy Ann dolls or that the doll that was in the attic was a doll that Prudence's mother had made for her as a little girl. I really appreciate what you have done here and I do genealogy so I have done some research on Prudence myself. I never even knew her as I was not born when they all lived in Fl. but just from my mother talking about her I feel that I did know her and as the saying goes as long as one person remembers you then you shall never die. We should all be so lucky to be remembered for good things.


    2. I'd love to see those paintings and hear about anything else concerning Prudence, if you would care to send. I think she deserves to have her story told.

  2. Dear Anonymous,

    Sorry for the long delay in replying to your comment. I never received email notification that you had posted something here. I'll have to check my setup on Google to make sure I receive notification in the future.

    In any case, yes, I would very much like to see images of Prudence Gruelle's artwork. I have never seen any of her drawings or paintings. Also, if you have biographical information or any other images such as photographs, playbills, or advertisements, I would like to see them, too. You can write to me at I hope to hear from you soon. I apologize again for taking so long to write to you. Thanks.


  3. So glad to see this blog about Prudence Gruelle. I have a small painting by her that we inherited from a Mrs. Peck that evidently was a friend of hers or a relative that lived in Miami, Fla near or behind the Dadeland Mall off of Sunset Blvd. I know Mrs Peck, my mother in law, visited there with a lady and her elderly husband, in the sixties and seventies....and maybe later too, not sure. I keep thinking the couple were the Hogans. Anyway, I have a pair of unfinished Raggedy Anne and Andy from another box but not sure where they come from except they were supposedly being made for my sister inlaw who would be around 76 yrs of age but now deceased. The painting is signed GRUELLE 1957 and a paper on the back says "Winter Wonderland" by Prudence Gruelle-1957. It is a small painting in original frame. We are retired and are trying to keep significant things and thought we should go ahead and research this more. All I know is whoever my mother in law visited there in Fla, she loved dearly.....and told us about this little painting, that it was done by someone who made the Raggedy Anne dolls. I would like any links to this or if POSSIBLE to FORWARD THIS INFO to the anonymous person we can get the details of Prudence. Thank you, my email is

  4. I am not related but because of the two paintings given to my mother and grandmother who must have lived close to Prudence; I became curious about her since you always saw things about her brothers but not her so I started researching her. I found a lot of newspaper articles about her; and I know she wrote a serial for the newspapers of stories for children. I will look around here to find the articles I found. I would really like to know where she lived in Dade Co compared to where my grandmother and mother lived. My mom took trips back to Florida but I do not know if she saw Prudence. It is kind of funny considering some of the Gruelle's worked in Cincinnati where my family was and there they painted beautiful painting on Safes.. I know mom only called her Prudie. I have two paintings here and wonder if the Winter Wonderland is the same as the one I have or she just used the name on any winter scene. Mine has a house in the distance with smoke coming out of the chimney and there are trees with no leaves but covered with snow on the branches. I know she was married to Albert Matzke but not for long; not sure but do not think the marriage was approved of. and she was pretty young when she married him. I forget which museum it is in Indiana but if you go and look at Richard B. Gruelle's work you will see many little sketches he did of his daughter Prudence as a little girl. They are very sweet as well as seeing some of his other works. I always would look at her paintings hanging on the wall at our house as a very young girl and would ask my mom questions. They have been very important to generations of my family for at least 65 years. If you go to and other newspaper sites you may be able to find the same articles I have found but I noticed since those sites were taken over by some other company it seemed they cropped the article out or the story she had written cropped out the little picture that had been drawn to go with the story. I did think it was neat when I found her on the same Vaudeville Bill as Sid Chaplin as the Singing Cartoonist. I think Prudence did a lot that she never was known for because she was in the shadows of her two older brothers. That must have been tough to be in such a talented family and one article I read was about Raggedy Anne and the big store in New York. Johnny's widow had shown up for the opening I guess of the store selling some Raggedy Ann Items. She was interviewed and she said herself that the doll that Raggedy Ann was derived from was indeed Prudence' doll as a little girl. That was nice to read since you see so many different versions but I would think Johnny Gruelle's wife would know. I suppose there are many stories since Raggedy Anne was so huge but basically in the beginning they all worked together to make them. I will look for the newspaper articles I found and when I find them I will get back to you

  5. I found one new article concerning Prudence Gruelle and it also has a photo of her. It is copyrighted so I will give a date and anyone can check for themselves if they have a newspaper subscription. The Indianapolis News, Wednesday, April 28 1915 page 2 Above the photo is has typed "She Came From Indiana" It mentions some of her accomplishments . If any of you see it please let me know you found it. That is a new one for me

  6. I just came across quite a lot of the research I did on Prudence which includes some on Albert Matzke also. I will share it here if you do not mind and at least that way perhaps other will not have to pay to find it.
    1915 Miami Herald
    Mr. and Mrs. John B. Gruelle of New York expected to arrive in Miami soon, to visit Mr. and Mrs Ain Wirls 1802 Avenue D.
    Oct. 6 1919 Rockford Republic (Rockford Ill.) Page 6
    "Good Night Stories" by Blanche Silver illustrated by Gruelle
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------March 4 1920 Montgomery Advertiser" "Little stories for the kids"
    Ad Aug 25 1901
    1917 Good Night Stories" in many newspapers
    Gruelle, Justin WWI Old Man's Draft Registration Card
    Minor Civil Division
    1860 Illinois Census Douglas Illinois
    Gruelle John B. age 50 b. 1810 Ky Farmer
    Prudence 45 b. 1815 Ga.
    Helen 20 b. 1840 Ky.
    Nathan 17 b. 1843 Ky
    Caroline 14 b. 1846 Ky.
    George 12 b. 1848 Ky
    Richard 9 b. 1851 Ky.
    Thomas 6 b. 1854 Ky
    (must have moved from Ky between 1852-1854)Probably grandparents of Johnny, Justin, and Prudence

    Matzke Albert "Time Picaysine (New Orleans) Pages 52, 51, 57, 59
    A story written by Orin Bartlett titled "A Thirty Four Waist Line" and illustrated by Albert Matzke.
    (anyone interested in his art can check for that newspaper with the story.)
    I have a lot more so if anyone wants more please let me know
    love to see the interest in the Gruelle family just because of the kindness of Prudie to my mother and grandmother in Florida. My mother thought very highly of her.

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  8. So nice to finally find out a bit more about Prudence! Some years ago I viewed a Youtube video by a family who had toured the Raggedy Ann Museum, just before it closed in 2009. There is a brief shot of a group of dolls and a bit of writing about them being made by Prudence, and stating that they were just a few of the many that she had made. So I became interested in those and learning more about her, but without much success. Apparently those dolls did not make it with the rest of the collection to the "Strong Museum of Play", and there is nothing about them or her that I can find in their archive. If anyone knows anything about the dolls she personally made, has any photograph or any more information, I would love to see and hear about it.

  9. I am the grandson of Albert Matzke. Unfortnately he passed away before his son, my father, married. My father is still alive providing me with many stories about his dad. Most don't know he played the violin along with his gift of drawing and painting. I'm surprised this bio list his birth as 1881. I was told it was 1886. His second wife was from London. She lived to be 102 years old. My father knew nothing of the marriage to Prudence until much later in his adult life. Albert is buried in Indianapolis. He had one brother, Harry, who passed in the mid 70s. We have several books with Albert's illustrations and a few of his paintings.