Part 346: Thomas G. Moses and Walter M. Dewey
The year 1895 closed without any fanfare or high profits for Thomas G. Moses. He wrote that 1896 “opened not any too good for me.” He had a difficult time keeping his studio warm enough to paint, commenting, “The studio space was just too large, so I leased a portion to a laundry company, which cut my rent I half – a great help.” It was a difficult time for Moses and he knew that he was failing; managing on his own might not be the answer.
Into the first half of 1896, Moses was still struggling with managing his studio, securing contracts and retaining a crew. It was too much work for one person, but he stayed connected and continued to support his colleagues. Regardless of his own troubles, Moses was always available to help a fellow artist and friend. He exhibited some artwork with other “leading artists of Chicago” in a charity event during February. The art exhibition of watercolors, pastels, and oils was held on the evenings of Feb. 3 and 4, at 8 o’clock, in the rooms of the Y.M.C.A, No. 542 West Monroe Street. It was a benefit was for Walter M. Dewey.
The outpouring of support was significant. The Chicago Tribune reported, “The friends of Walter M. Dewey, a clever young Chicago artist, have been grieved to learn recently he has been sick for several weeks and it has been necessary to remove him to a hospital out of the city” (2 February 1896, page 20). He had been seriously ill for six weeks, to be exact. The article continued, “His fellow artists, in their sympathy for Mr. Dewey and his family have arranged an exhibition and sale of paintings for his benefit.”
Participating artists and their works included John H. Vanderpoel, head, in oil; F. C. Peyraud, “Autumn,” oil; Fred B. McGreer, landscape, water color; Charles Edward Boutwood [Boulwood], head, watercolor; Charles A. Corwin, landscape, pastel; Pauline A. Dohn, head, oil; T. O. Fraenkel, “Mackinac,” water color; William Schmedtgen [Schmeddtgen], “A Blind,” water color; Svend Svendson, “Autumn,” water color; William Clusman, sketch, water color; George E. Colby, “Moonrise,” water color; Albert Olson [Olsen], “Crystal Lake, Autumn,” water color; E. A. Burbank, “Charcoal Darky,” watercolor; Thomas G. Moses, “Interior Wood,” water color; Harry Vincent, sketch water color; William Horton, sketch, water color; and J. E. Colburn. In addition there were to be twenty canvases by Walter M. Dewey. Vanderpoel and Wiliam W. Vernon were in charge of the sale.
Dewey was a student at the Art Institute in Chicago and a member of the Chicago Society of Artists, who exhibited a few years earlier with fellow artists that included Walter Burridge, Hardesty Maratta, Ernest Albert, Oliver D. Grover, and others.
Dewey’s cause was not the first to be supported by his fellow artists. On January 17, 1894, the Chicago Tribune advertised that a “Charity Sale” of pictures had begun (page 8). A ‘charity sale’ of water colors and oil paintings held in the rooms of the Chicago Society of Artists, on the top floor of the Anthenæum Building. It continued ten days and the proceeds were turned over to the Central Relief Association for the benefit of the needy. Many of those who supported Dewey in 1895, had previously exhibited in the “Charity Sale,” including Burridge, Marratta, Vincent, Peyraud, Clusman, Schmedtgen, Corwin, Svendsen, Vanderpoel, and many others. Dewey had also exhibited with the group. It was natural that during his time of need, he was also supported.
I can’t help but thing back to the Scene Painter’s Show of 1885. It signaled the beginning of an era; a period that one could consider a golden age of scenic artists in Chicago that meshed perfectly with their fine art activities. Both theatre and fine art were extensions of these remarkable men who thought beyond their own individual artwork. They were part of a community that not only supported each other, but also supported a variety of causes for the common good of mankind. They were contributing toward a beautiful future and experiencing the world of art together. But there was an exciting undercurrent that was spreading throughout exhibition halls and entertainment venues. The theatrical world was starting to change at a rapid-fire pace. Those who could blend what was already popular with a new technology would soar ahead of the competition.
To be continued…