By Kate Howard Perry / World-Herald staff writer
The works of Council Bluffs native and muralist Louis Grell have never had a comprehensive exhibit. University of Nebraska at Omaha art students have never curated an exhibit from start to finish.
Both will happen in the UNO Art Gallery, where an exhibit of Grell’s paintings and drawings opens Friday.
Art majors researched, selected and even hung and labeled the works through a class designed around the creation of the exhibit. The students organized themselves into teams – research, curating, archiving material and writing the labels that would accompany the art at the gallery.
“This class is incredibly unusual,” said Amy Morris, assistant professor of art history at UNO, who led the seminar. “Most of our history classes are more academic — follow a textbook, look at certain images.”
But this class offered students the rare opportunity to look at a local artist who was commissioned for more than 100 murals in the early 20th century but hasn’t been heavily researched.
Morris brought in the curator from the Joslyn Art Museum to teach the basics of creating an exhibit and members of the Grell family to discuss their research. She also took the class on a field trip to the Grell family farm in Council Bluffs.
The project started a couple of years ago when Richard Grell, the late artist’s grand-nephew, brought some of his family’s paintings to the Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center to be conserved and mentioned that he hoped to display them someday. A staff member there suggested that UNO might be interested, and the idea of building a seminar around creating the exhibit was born.
Richard Grell visited with distant family members around the country to acquire more pieces on loan and formed a foundation in September dedicated to acquiring and keeping together the art of Louis Grell, who died in 1960.
Last fall, the class began its work.
Richard Grell attended almost every class and said just hearing other people discussing his grand-uncle was shocking, since everything he knew before he started his research — he has a mural in Times Square, he once taught Walt Disney at a Chicago art school — he heard from inside his family.
“To sit in the classes and hear other experts talking about Louis Grell’s style and technique, it blew me away,” Richard Grell said.
For students in the class, it provided an experience that’s hard to get as an undergrad, said Candace Berger, a senior art history major who was one of the curators of the exhibit. Berger has a work-study job in the gallery and hopes to work in a museum after graduation.
She and her classmates learned how much goes into an exhibit, including framing and measuring photos to hang at eye level and telling a story with the order of the pictures.
The class was a big time commitment; Berger didn’t really have a Christmas break as final preparations were underway. But as the class finished hanging the pictures this week, Berger said seeing the physical manifestation of their work was amazing.
“It was very rewarding that we could work together to do this instead of staring at pictures on a wall or a teacher’s PowerPoint,” she said.
Now she can add curating to her résumé, Berger said, which shouldn’t hurt when she starts looking for a museum job either.
See more at http://www.omaha.com/article/20140116/NEWS/140119057/1694#uno-students-learn-curating-bluffs-native-louis-grell-gets-his-due
Exhibit Dates: January 17th through February 20th at the UNO Art Gallery
The University of Nebraska, Omaha is taking on a significant challenge. A senior seminar will commence during the Fall Semester 2013, where an entire class will research, catalog then exhibit approximately 45 original works by Louis Frederick Grell. The plan is to research the artists’ prolific career, under the guidance of experienced art professors, select approximately 45 original compositions to be exhibited at the UNO fine art gallery in Omaha starting January 17, 2014 and finally catalog the works selected by the students.
The Grell family is very excited about this incredible opportunity for an exclusive selection of Louie’s works to be honored by the UNO faculty and students participating in the seminar.
The exhibit will begin January 17 at 4:30 PM and run through February 20, 2014.
The Grell Family, Bluffs Arts Council and Pottawattamie County Board of Supervisors (IOWA) are pleased to offer a public exhibit…
The Council Bluffs Public Library (IOWA) and the Louis Grell Foundation are proud to announce an ongoing collaboration to exhibit, on a rotating basis, works by Mr. Grell at the public library for educational viewing and to celebrate and educated the public on the works by Louis Grell. The goal is to showcase the legacy of Grell’s 55 year art career based in Chicago at the Tree Studios artist colony by a “…Council Bluffs boy who went to the larger cities and made good…” Council Bluffs Nonpariel
The first exhibited piece was The Bouquet Oil on Canvas, painted in 1942 by Louis Grell and can now be viewed on the first floor of the public library during normal business hours next to the Book Checkout station.
Now on display is The Picnic Scene, oil on canvas c 1930, a setting similar to Grell’s ten murals found in the Palm Court grand hall inside the National Historic Landmark and Historic Hotels Of America, the Hilton Netherland Plaza Hotel, Cincinnati,OH.
Plates by Louis Grell published in 1930 Ladies Formal Gowns from 1800 to 1930 In 1930, Mandel Brothers published this…
AN EXHIBITION of MURAL and EASEL PAINTINGS by JULIUS MOESSEL, CHARLES HALLOWAY and LOUIS GRELL from June 16 until June 30, 1936 in the Eight Floor ART GALLERIES, THE DAVIS STORE. “three of Chicago’s most noted artists…” “Each one of the three artists excel in not only mural work but easel paintings that are expert in their execution and challenging in their psychology. Each one is exceptionally versatile and draws freely upon tradition-mythology, the bible, science, literature and their own creative imaginations. This exhibition clearly indicates Moessel, Halloway and Grell as artists of sound accomplishment and tremendous power.”
Three Ranking Artists Offer Stunning Show by Eleanor Jewett, Chicago Tribune, June 18, 1936 page 18
“A stunning exhibition of mural and easel paintings by Julius Moessel, Charles Holloway and Louis Grell has opened in the Davis store eight floor galleries, to continue to June 30.”
“A long wall of large figure paintings by Louis Grell is most stimulating. Mr. Grell is a painter with vision and power and his saga of romantic personages is bravely sung. When he comes down from the mountain peak of allegory and walks the comparatively modest plains of portraiture his talents stand him in equally good stead. Two of his finest canvases are the portrait of Julius Moessel and “Lady with Spaniel.””
Two Exhibitions Receive Praise of Art Critic by Eleanor Jewett Chicago Tribune, March 26, 1935 page 13
“The magnificent and romantic canvases by Louis Grell afford a second contrast. Mr. Grell paints with vision, sweep, and imagination. His “Forest Idyll” is a remarkably unified and beautiful mural. His portrait of Julius Moessel is extraordinarily fine and that of “Lady with Dog(Spaniel)” is as delightful as any given us by Gainsborough.”
That comparison is to Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) the famous English portrait artist of the Kings and Queens of England and was a quote from an influential art critic on hand at the Chicago Galleries Association.
WALT DISNEY ART SCHOOL TRANSCRIPTS NOW HERE
The Grell Family is proud to announce the arrival of Mr. Walt Disney’s art school transcripts from the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts for the years 1917 and 1918.
After a four month request with the Illinois Board of Higher Education, Mrs. Diane Disney Miller, as legal heir, to Walt Disney authorized the release of Disney’s art school transcripts to the Grell Family. Thank you, Mrs. Diane Disney Miller and Byron Larson.
Ever since we can remember, our great Aunt Helen Grell Bellinger would tells us remarkable stories about our Uncle Louis, the famous artist. Dozens of Louis paintings were strewn about her home on Broadway in Council Bluffs, like an overcrowded museum. One story that sticks out, of course, is the one she would proudly tell about how Louis taught a young man by the name of Walt Disney. Aunt Helen was a very proud and old traditional German lady, not known for her exaggerated fairytale stories-she was an honest and sincere woman. She had many stories about Louis and each of her prized possessions hanging on the walls.
According to Aunt Helen Grell Bellinger(1898-1999), Louis was Walt Disney’s art instructor back in Chicago a long time ago. It turns out that Louis Grell was a very private artist and never wanted much attention and therefore it goes, that this story remained a family treasured secret-until now. Louie would talk about this to family on numerous occasions. He told Aunt Ruth Grell Applegate the same story. She remembers it well.
After doing a great deal of research, turning up many clues, we have been able to confirm that Louie did teach art, at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts from 1916-1922 and that Walt Disney did in fact take art classes at night, at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts in 1917 and 1918. According to Walt Disney Archives at Disney.com and emails, we can confirm this. Furthermore, the Disney Archives confirms that after World War I, “Walt returned to Kansas City, where he began his career as an advertising cartoonist.” According to American Art News, December 9, 1916, page 4, under the Chicago sub heading, the dean of the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts “engaged him (Louie) as instructor of decorative painting, to show how to make color a force in commercial illustrations and in advertising drawings.”
Is it safe to assume that Mr. Disney took advertising drawings courses before his first position as an advertising cartoonist-that is for you to decide?
We want to thank Byron Larson and Mrs. Diane Disney Miller for authorizing the release of Walt Disney’s art transcripts to the Grell Family.
On October 25, 26 and 27 of 2012, I had the pleasure of visiting Cincinnati and was privileged to stay…
Please help us identify where these known Grell murals may have been installed. Louie painted most of his murals in Tree Studios and they were then shipped to location for local artisans to install.
Do you know where any of these murals are or were installed? Please contact us.
In May of 2012, I called the Assumption Catholic Church and talked to Fr. Joseph Chamblain, O.S.M. Pastor at Assumption Catholic Church at 323 West Illinois St in Downtown Chicago and set an appointment to go photograph and see the murals inside the church where I believed Louis Grell painted several murals inside the historic church. Several sourced confirmed he painted numerous ceiling murals back in 1939.
After walking into the beautiful church I immediately new this was the work of Louie. Previous credit was given to Joseph Grill, President of the Chicago Art Institute. There never was a President or a Joseph Grill associated to the Chicago Art Institute. Apparently the Pastor in the 1930’s got Louie’s name wrong.
I met with Fr. Chamblain, he gave me a tour, showed me some historical archives and allowed me to photograph the murals. There are three murals painted on the ceiling, probably oil on canvas, surrounded by numerous decorative banners and depictions of the twelve apostles painted into lunettes around the arch of the ceiling. It is believed that Louis Grell painted the entire ceiling and the twelve apostles in 1939.
Several months later in August, I received a phone call, followed by several emails from Fr. Conrad Borntrager O.S.M., who is attached to the regional office and is responsible for historical archives related to the numerous Catholic Churches of the Midwest. Fr. Conrad offered assistance with editing my text related to the Assumption Church and asked for documentation supporting our claim that Louie painted the ceiling murals. We exchanged numerous emails and historical information related to the church and the murals. Thank you so much Fr. Chamblain and Fr. Borntrager for allowing us to photograph Louie’s murals inside your beautiful church and sharing so much rich history relating to Assumption Catholic Church.