Those who are not conversant in works of art are often surprised at the high value set by connoisseurs on drawings which appear careless, and in every respect unfinished; but they are truly valuable... they give the idea of a whole.
- Sir Joshua Reynolds
We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.
- Anais Nin


Friday, July 10, 2009

The Charcoal Club of Baltimore

Posted by Charley Parker at 11:50 pm

The Charcoal Club of Baltimore: Lee Alban, avid Buckley Good, Rita Curtis
Having lived in the Philadelphia area for most of my life, I’ve long been acquainted with two of the oldest independent artists’ organizations in the U.S., The Plastic Club and the Philadelphia Sketch Club. I know them both from attending drawing workshops and participating in exhibits at each of the clubs.

The Philadelphia Sketch Club is, as far as I know, the oldest continuing arts club in the country; started in 1860 by students from The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the nation’s oldest art school.

I know those in Europe will look at Americans quizzically when we act as though things from a century and a half ago are “old”; but bear in mind that we are a young country, and age is a matter of perspective.

There are other American arts organizations that trace their origins to the latter part of the 19th Century, the Salmagundi Art Club in New York for example; and many of them have had some of the country’s finest painters and illustrators among their membership.

They often have colorful histories and origins that delineate patterns of dissatisfaction among artists with the artistic establishment of the time, or the desire to practice life drawing from the nude when such practices were frowned upon.

I was delighted to find out recently about another such artists’ organization, which dates as the second oldest in the U.S., The Charcoal Club of Baltimore.

Organized around classes nude figure drawing, and for 20 years the only institution in Baltimore offering life drawing sessions, the club was intended to encourage art appreciation, the sharing of techniques and the promotion of local artists.

The club also became a bastion of civic pride as the sponsor of at least two Salon des Refuses in the 1920′s and 30′s when the Baltimore Museum of Art bypassed Baltimore artists in its juried exhibitions of Maryland artists.

The club, like the other arts clubs I mention, carries on its traditions of promoting life drawing sessions, the sharing of information, techniques and resources among members and the promotion of local artists.

There is a gallery on the club’s site, from which I’ve picked a few member artists whose work struck me and who happen to have web sites displaying more of their work.

(Images above: Lee Alban, David Buckley Good, Rita Curtis)

[Suggestion courtesy of Ray Ridenour]

7 comments for The Charcoal Club of Baltimore »

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  1. Comment by Daniel van Benthuysen
    Sunday, July 12, 2009 @ 12:13 am

    Thanks for the link to the Salmagundi Club in New York, Charley. And next time you’re up this way let me know. I’ll buy you a drink at the bar.

  2. Comment by Aaron
    Monday, July 13, 2009 @ 3:53 pm

    They actually aren’t hosting life-drawing classes right now…….the controlling board flipped out over there being two models at once (apparently it was seen as immoral) and canceled them until the fall, if they restart them at all.

    Very sad.

  3. Comment by Charley Parker
    Monday, July 13, 2009 @ 4:59 pm

    Shades of Eakins at the Pennsylvania Academy all those years ago… how far we’ve come (sigh). Thanks for the info.

  4. Comment by Mary
    Tuesday, July 14, 2009 @ 8:30 pm

    The Providence Art Club was also formed in 1880, and continues to be an active presence until the current time. Classes there are great, and and there is a wonderful cafe as well. Come by if you happen to be in Providence, and we will give you a tour of the renovated and the new facilities.

  5. Comment by Claudia
    Tuesday, August 10, 2010 @ 8:41 am

    Hi there…I’ve been looking for a place to not only draw but also model. I’ve recently moved here from Chicago and need to find a community of artists. I graduated in ’84 from SAIC and was a figure model for about 8 years. Since I’m still lost around here maps are an essential part of my existence. Could I find out workshop schedules and who to contact? Thanks a million!

  6. Comment by Charley Parker
    Tuesday, August 10, 2010 @ 9:16 am


    Representatives of the Charcoal Club are unlikely to see your request here. Look for more information directly on their website.

  7. Comment by Claudia
    Tuesday, August 10, 2010 @ 10:11 am

    Thank you Charley!

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