Lines and Colors art blog

The Charcoal Club of Baltimore

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]


10 responses to “The Charcoal Club of Baltimore”

  1. 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. 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.

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

  3. 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.

  4. Claudia Avatar

    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!

    1. Claudia,

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

  5. Claudia Avatar

    Thank you Charley!

  6. Tracey Brown Avatar
    Tracey Brown

    Is the Charcoal Club still around? I remember a while back they had a space in Woodberry, but it looks like their site is down. It would be great to have life drawing in the area!

    1. I don’t have any current information on the Charcoal Club; but you might find this resource on life model sessions useful:

  7. Tim Kelly Avatar
    Tim Kelly

    There is an effort to get the Charcoal Club up and running again. Right now there is a facebook group page. A prospective meeting is to be held on Sunday, Jan 17 at 1pm at Schuler School.