January 2012

Campus Landscapes

In the summer of 1934 (following the official opening of the Little Gallery), President Lotus Coffman initiated the idea for the University to employ the services of artists in the soon-to-be terminated federal Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) program, to capture landscapes of the University campus through brushes and canvas.

PWAP was created in 1933 and was funded by the US Civil Works Administration. In Minnesota, the project was administered by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts under the direction of Russell Plimpton. After the conclusion of the PWAP program in 1934, individual states assumed responsibility for projects still in existence.

On November 5, 1934, Plimpton wrote to Malcolm Willey, Assistant to President Coffman, requesting a description of the work that the artists had completed for the University, stating, “So far as I know, the University of Minnesota was the only one to undertake any continuance of the government’s P.W.A. plan, and I believe that a brief record of it would be especially interesting…

On November 14, 1934, Willey sent a formal report of the University’s involvement in PWA projects to Plimpton, indicating that, “We now have on exhibition at the Little Gallery all of the works that were done by the group of artists last spring. I hope that you will be able to come over to see them before they are taken down. There is, of course, wide variation in the merit of these pictures, but considering the purpose that we had in mind in inviting the men to campus, I feel that the results are highly satisfactory.

I would summarize the University’s involvement in the employment of PWA artists, but I feel that Willey’s formal report to Plimpton is… highly satisfactory…

University Art Project Employing PWA

The University of Minnesota has during the past few months been attempting in a quiet way to arouse interest in the fine arts.

There is, to be sure, adequate class work which students may take, but the interest of which we speak is that extending beyond the class room.

President L.D. Coffman early this spring (1934) had raised the question informally of whether or not there were some local artists who might be brought to the campus to paint scenes associated with the University. He had three ideas in mind:

(1) To attract the attention of students by allowing them to see artists at work and dealing with subject matter that was familiar.

(2) To obtain for hanging in various University rooms where students assemble some colorful pictures that would serve to enhance the attractiveness of these rooms.

(3) To stimulate an interest in the work of local artists and lend whatever support he could to their development and local appreciation.

When the PWA art projects were terminating, President Coffman directed a member of his staff to raise with the local committee the possibility of continuing a small group of the artists who would be employed on the federal project by bringing them to the campus at the same rates of pay they had been receiving under PWA.

It was found that this was not only feasible, but that the artists themselves were eager for the chance to continue employment, especially to work on the campus of the University with the assurance that their paintings would be hung.

Accordingly, a sum of money which was available at the University was put aside to employ a small group of local artists. Altogether, seven were brought to the campus for various periods. These were:

Mr. Cameron Booth
Mr. Dewey Albinson
Mr. Elof Wedin
Mr. Erle Loran
Mr. Sydney G. Fossum
Mr. Arnold N. Klagstad
Mr. Stanford Fenelle.

It was agreed with the artists that they should receive compensation at approximately the same rate as the PWA had paid them, and that there should be no restrictions as to subject matter other than that they should center in the district in which the University is located – that is, southeast Minneapolis.

Because it was intended to use the work submitted by the artists for decoration of University lounge rooms, assembly rooms, class room corridors, and so forth, it was decided to limit the artists to those working in oil and water color, thus assuring more colorful results.

To supervise the project on the campus, the President appointed a committee of four – Dean Malcolm M. Willey of the University, Mr. Russell Plimpton of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Mr. Cameron Booth of the St. Paul School of Art, and Mr. Hudson Walker, curator of the Little Gallery, University of Minnesota. Mr. Booth had given valuable assistance to the PWA work through his technical advice to the artists that had been employed. Mr. Plimpton and Mr. Walker had also been associated with the PWA project, and their membership on the University Committee constituted a continuing link between the two projects.

The committee met one afternoon each week, at which time the artists brought in their work of the preceding seven days. At these meetings it was determined which sketches should be worked up and other matters of a similar nature were discussed.

As a result of the program which extended altogether over six weeks the University acquired 43 water colors of various sizes, 24 small oils chiefly in the nature of sketches, and 14 larger-sized oils. President Coffman then made available sufficient money to frame the entire collection. The watercolors were framed by a commercial gallery in downtown Minneapolis. Frames for the oils were made at the University carpenter shop, following patterns found satisfactory by the PWA committee. The basic costing of whiting the glue was applied in the University paint shop, after which the artists themselves were invited back to finish the frames. For this they were paid at the rate of $1.00 an hour.

The entire collection is now on exhibition at the University of Minnesota Little Gallery, and is attracting a large number of visitors. Already a request has come from the St. Paul Public Library to borrow the collection for a brief showing there.

The Little Gallery at the University of Minnesota is open each week-day and also each evening and Sunday when Symphony concerts are given in Northrop Memorial Auditorium, in which building the Little Gallery is located. The management of the Symphony and the University Artists’s Course has generously donated space in the printed program to call attention to the fact that Symphony patrons are invited during intermission and following the concerts to attend the exhibition. In this way interest in the collection extends beyond the student body on the campus.

Mrs. Ruth Lawrence who is now curator of the Little Gallery has already begun her plans for distribution of the collection among the various University buildings. The largest number of items will go to Pioneer Hall, Sanford Hall, and the College Women’s Dormitory on the farm campus. These are the University residence halls. None of the pictures will be used for office decorations, but will be hung so that students may have contact with them. It is our intention to change the pictures from building to building now and then.”

(from the WAM Collection, Box 109, General Gallery Correspondence)

Web_WAMEntrance2.jpgToday, WAM proudly exhibits two of the campus landscapes in the entrance to the museum. Because the shadows in this photograph (taken with full effect of the late afternoon sun) block the landscapes from view, you will just have to stop in to the museum to see them for yourself!

The purchase… and Murder of Edith Cavell.

Visitors often ask the museum visitor services staff, “How does the museum get art?

Today, thanks to the generosity of individuals who have donated either works of art or have donated money that has gone to set up funds for the purchase of art, the museum is able to add works to the collection. When the gallery first started in the 1930’s, however, art was also purchased with funds that came straight out of the University budget (no longer the case today!).

As the infant gallery had just reached the first full year of existence, Malcolm Willey, Assistant to President Coffman (instrumental in the development of the gallery) appealed to Coffman to make available additional funds with which to purchase prints to develop the gallery collection. Coffman granted the request with approval and allocated an additional $1500 for the purchase and framing of prints (May 3, 1935 correspondence, University Archives).

One of the purchases made from this allotment was of a lithograph by artist George Bellows titled “The Murder of Edith Cavell.

Ruth Lawrence wrote to Malcolm Willey after she and S. Chatwood Burton (Architecture faculty and member of the Fine Arts Committee) met with the dealer. In a correspondence dated May 11, 1935 (WAM 109, University Gallery Correspondence, 1935-1950) Ruth referenced the work and also described the circumstances under which it could be acquired:

Mr. Burton and I went to see the George Bellows lithographs yesterday. The picture is of Edith Cavell’s execution. Do you remember? It is of her coming down the stairway in the prison. The print was a bit mussed and needed restretching. This originally does not harm a print, but we asked that this be done before we went further, because we wanted it perfect before we accepted it. The print is signed by Bellows and the title is written underneath, in what looks like his handwriting. We will compare it to be sure, when it comes out to the campus. It is Mr. Burton’s opinion that it is a good print, and that it is an exceptional opportunity to get it at a low price. He says Mr. Young, the dealer, is accurate in his statement that in the New York market, we would have to pay $350. The price is $300 regularly in Chicago. Mr. Young is offering it to us at $150. There were 100 prints made of this lithograph, and this is number 93. I shall ask Mr. Young to bring the print to the campus, when it is ready. We can then go over it again. This dealer is a well known one, and I believe he is perfectly honest, but we will make sure.

Guest Post: Paul H. Winchell, research by Deborah Shatin

Although the WAM Files contain the administrative records of the Weisman Art Museum, it is important to make the distinction that an archival collection may not contain all of the records related to the museum, the exhibits held there, or the artworks in the collection. As we have often referred to other records within the Digital Conservancy and outside collections to provide context to items found within the Files, we must also refer to other records in order to learn more about museum works that are not contained within the archival records.

Such is the case with the work “The Fruit Tree” by Paul Winchell, currently on display in the Davis Gallery at WAM. My eyes have seen thousands of files over the course of the past year and a half and not once have I encountered reference to this work.

Thankfully, WAM tour guide Deborah Shatin, followed the paper trail to other museums and libraries in the Twin Cities to learn more about this work.

In the first of a new series of guest posts on the WAM Files, where we will feature other researchers’ findings on subjects related to WAM, Deborah Shatin shares her investigation of the artist Paul Winchell, and his work “The Fruit Tree.”

Paul H. Winchell
Information to Date: December 3, 2011
Researched by Deborah Shatin for the WAM


The Weisman Art Museum (WAM) recently installed a painting by Paul H. Winchell with the expansion of the museum space and grand reopening in October 2011. Dated from 1932 it is located in a gallery with the theme of New Deal Gallery with other art works from that time period in our history. Given the varied and unusual figures in this painting, titled “The Fruit Tree,” curiosity arose about the background of the artist and this painting. In culling various sources in the Twin Cities, including the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD, formerly known as the Minneapolis School of Art), catalogues from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA), the Minneapolis Central Public Library, the Minnesota Historical Society, and the Hennepin History Museum, the following information was gleaned.

Paul H. Winchell (1903 – 1971) was a printmaker, illustrator, teacher, and gilder according to Crump, 2009 (Minnesota Prints and Printmakers, 1900- 1945, Minnesota Historical Society Press). He was the son of Mrs. Looman Winchell of Shepherd Rd as noted in a 1937 newspaper article (Painsville, O. Telegraph). Winchell grew up in North Perry, Ohio and then studied and worked as an instructor at the Art Institute of Chicago. He studied with Leon Kroll (1884 – 1974), Boris Anisfeld (1878-1973), Daniel Garber (1880 – 1958), Charles Woodbury (1864 – 1940), George Oberteuffer, (1878 – 1940) and Elmer A. Forsberg (1883 – 1950), although it was not stated whether each of these teachers was in Chicago or elsewhere. According to the Minneapolis School of Art Faculty Summer 1930 brochure he was an instructor at the Art Institute of Chicago for three years. According to the 1940 – 1941 catalogue, which provided a short biography and a photograph of the artist, he traveled and studied in Spain, Africa, Italy, England, Germany, and France. According to Crump, Winchell did not receive support from either the Public Works of Art Project or the Minnesota WPA Federal Art Project.

In Minneapolis, where he was an instructor at the Minneapolis School of Art, he first appeared in 1930 in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts’ Sixteenth Annual Exhibition of the Work of Minneapolis and St. Paul Artists, where he exhibited three oil paintings. He received second honorable mention in oil painting for #69 Old Family. In 1931 he received third honorable mention in oil painting for #64, his Portrait of Miss C. Winchell exhibited his work subsequently in other Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) exhibitions in 1933 and 1935 – 1938. According to Crump he also received first prize in the prints category at the Minnesota State Fair in 1940. Other exhibitions included the St. Paul Gallery and School of Art, the Midwestern Artists Association, and the Kansas City Art Institute. His bio at the Minneapolis School of Art also noted he exhibited at the Chicago Art Institute. According to Crump’s summary, based on information from Who Was Who in American Art, 1564-1975 (by Peter Falk), Winchell’s knowledge of gilding as a craft for framing may have provided income supplemental to his teaching.

At the Minneapolis School of Art Winchell taught figure sketching, figure study, elementary illustration, and drawing. His Figure Sketching class in the summer of 1930 is described as follows:

Rapid sketching from the nude develops a clearness of vision, a quick grasp of essential facts, and a sureness of expression. This class affords an opportunity for study of the figure in action poses which vary in length from one minute to fifty minutes. By making dozens of studies in pencil, crayon, and brush, the student quickly learns to make spirited, rhythmic drawings, based upon a clear understanding. In this class some drawing is done from cast in support o the other work, but the method of approach is the same, and preserves a spontaneity in the results.

Winchell’s Elementary Illustration course description from the same catalogue states:

This class work consists of simple illustration problems which require the representation of various objects, such as furniture, simple room interiors, buildings, sometimes in combination with the costumed figure. The theory and practice of perspective and the employment of many decorative treatments in pencil, wash, opaques, and ink, make this a very practical course for those who desire instruction in the elements of drawing as applied to a great variety of subjects. The class work takes the student to the museum galleries and occasionally out of doors for research in connection with the problems assigned.

The above two course descriptions provide insight into the varied mediums explored by Winchell as well as his emphasis on rapid sketching and the importance of perspective.

According to the Hennepin History Museum (September 22, 2011), Winchell lived at 2416 Dupont Ave So. in 1932 and 4 West 26th St. from 1936 – 1956. In 1946, according to the same source, he was hired as an artist for Brown & Bigelow in St. Paul who typically hired local artists to illustrate calendars with representational art such as hunting scenes. Contacts with Brown & Bigelow were never returned, and a local photographer said that they were not helpful for a different project concerning earlier artistic endeavors at the company. Crump notes that in 1948 Winchell worked at the Cedar Advertising Agency in St. Paul.

From research to date the following institutions in the Twin Cities have at least one art work by Winchell in their collections:



    • Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 1937, “Rat Anchorage” (drawing)


    • Minneapolis Central Public Library, Special Collections,


    • 1934, “Temporary Market at 10th and Hennepin” (etching)

The Special Collections of the Downtown Library has the above etching in their collection, with the librarian stating that this temporary market location was due to a concurrent teamster’s strike. There also is documentation of gifts of this etching in a letter dated December 21, 1935 from the President of Northwestern National Life Insurance Company to the Minneapolis Public Library noting that etchings were being sent as a Christmas greeting. Framed copies of three of the artist’s proofs, printed by the artist, were enclosed. The letter identifies the public library and Baptist Church in the background.

In searching the internet for art work by Paul H. Winchell, a number of items were discovered. These include two nude female images from Ask Art, “Street Mills” dated 1930 and a second landscape/townscape from Heritage Auction Galleries, and a male nude on a blog website (academic painting). As noted earlier, Appendix 1 provides a photograph of the WAM painting by Winchell, apparently listed in the 1933 MIA Exhibition Catalogue as “The Fruit Tree” and dated 1932 by the Minnesota Historical Society.

Robert Crump, Minnesota Prints and Printmakes: 1900 – 1945, Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2009; p175-176.

Peter Falk, Who Was Who in American Art, 1564 – 1975 (cited by Crump)

Who Was Who in American Art, 1903 – 1972, pg 702


Art in Wartime

Radio Broadcast

Station W.L.B.

Wednesday, December 10, 1941

Topic: Art in Wartime
Speaker: Mary Jesness

Introduction: The University Gallery presents its regular Wednesday art broadcast. The other day your Gallery Commentator, Mary Jesness, came to me and said, “What is going to happen to our world? What is going to happen to the art that we know as well as the other things?” She felt that you too might be wondering about it so she would like to tell you about her answer and how she got it. And now here she is… Mary…

ArtWar1.jpg 1 ArtWar2.jpg 2 ArtWar3.jpg 3
ArtWar4.jpg 4 ArtWar5.jpg 5 ArtWar6.jpg 6

(click on image for larger view)

Close: You have been listening to the regular Wednesday art broadcast of the University Gallery. Next Saturday at 11:15 your Gallery Commentator, Mary Jesness, will be back at the microphone to tell you of some of the interesting news of the exhibitions now being shown for you. Meanwhile come to the University Gallery on the third and fourth floors of Northrop Auditorium on the University Campus and see the many fine exhibitions being shown for your pleasure. There is never an admission charge at the University Gallery.

Baltzley Binder Bounty

According to Wikipedia, in 1910, Louis Baltzley invented the binder clip, Patent # 1,139,627, so that his father Edwin no longer had to bind his manuscripts by sewing the pages together through holes punched in the pages (which was the standard method in the day).

Web_LastClips.jpgIn more recent times, the binder clip is commonly used in offices of all types to bind large volumes of paper together. In the case of the WAM Files – the working administrative records kept and contained by Gallery/Museum/WAM employees – binder clips were used to organize and contain such items as lengthy grant applications, full sets of label text for exhibits, duplicate copies of press releases, sets of photographs, etc…

In our pursuit of minimal-level processing, binder clips were removed from the files, resulting in a growing bounty of fasteners.

As I began to encounter CDs, DVDs, and disks of all shapes and sizes during processing, I pondered over the fate of binder clips as offices adopt digital processes and searched for possible additional uses for the clips. To my surprise, some very ingenious do-it-yourselfers have recorded videos on how to make an iPhone Binder Clip Dock to fasten-bind-clip their digital devices in place.

If only I had an iPhone… imagine what I could do with all of these binder clips!

And then… there was one.

Web_LastBox.jpgThree months after the WAM Files project staff agreed to continue processing an additional accession of 38 boxes of records transferred from WAM to the Archives, and a mere 12 days after we all celebrated the start of a new year, this project processor finds herself preparing for an end – of the physical processing of the WAM collection material. This week, I reached the final… last… single… box of the archival collection.

However, the end of physical processing by no means signifies the end of the WAM Files. After the last folder is removed from this long Bankers Box and is marked with a #4 (collection number) and the year of the folder’s content, is placed into its eternal location in a Paige archival quality box, and is documented in an 8,000 + row spreadsheet, there is still more work to be done…

Here is a preview:

1. Finding Aid -We need to compose a historical note, scope, and content, so curious researchers can easily access our collection and the treasure trove of information contained within.

2. MORE Blog Posts – Did you really think that we shared everything that we came upon? Surely we saved some very juicy records for ourselves that we have yet to share…

3. Exhibit -The WAM Files – “in the flesh”? To our surprise and delight, WAM Exhibition staff scheduled an exhibit that will feature items from the archival collection that document the history of the museum. Coming to a WAM gallery near you in Summer 2012…

Ooky Google Doodle

They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky…

They’re all together ooky, the Addams Family…”

While thinking of this theme song, the urge to snap my fingers is suppressed as I instead navigate to today’s “Google Doodle” which features an inspired illustration by Charles Addams, the cartoonist and creator of the Addams Family, on what would have been his 100th birthday.

Long before Addams formally introduced the world to Morticia, Gomez, et. all, his “creepy” cartoons regularly graced the pages of The New Yorker. A 1998 feature titled The Addams Trove, described the artist’s contribution to the publication.

In 1958, an exhibition of Addams illustrations was held at the University Gallery. A promotional poster was found within the files: