Krehbiel Returns Home -- His Mural Works
Returning to the United States in May of 1906, Krehbiel rejoined the faculty of The Art Institute of Chicago at the urging of Mr. French. On June 5th, he married his beloved Dulah, a highly talented artist in her own right. After graduating from The Art Institute, Dulah was a resident of the Tree Studio Building in Chicago from 1903 through 1905. Continuing her education, she studied in New York at the Art Students League and at the New York School of Art under William Merritt Chase (1849-1916). Dulah went on to have an extremely accomplished career as a painter, printmaker, and commercial artist. (Also see Dulah Marie Evans at the-artists.org).
While maintaining a full-time teaching schedule at The Art Institute in 1906, Krehbiel received the commission to design and paint the mural for the wall of the Juvenile Court Room in Chicago. The scene depicted in the Juvenile Court mural appears to express the carefree joy of youth in a lawful, independent, and free land. The farmer tending his field in the background seems to represent the opportunity for all to prosper in a nation founded on the principles of democracy and free enterprise, while the adults in the left background overseeing the children reflects the importance of family values and parental supervision.
In 1907, having completed the Juvenile Court mural, Krehbiel entered works in the competition to design and paint the eleven wall and two ceiling murals for the Supreme and Appellate Court Rooms at the Illinois Supreme Court Building in Springfield, the state’s capitol. A total of twenty-two designs were submitted from some of the best artists throughout the United States. Krehbiel’s original design proposal for the murals included six themes: "Origins of Law", "The Continuity of Law", "Function of Law", "Attributes of Law", "The Return of the Golden Age", and "Law and Equity". "Law and Equity" became the wall mural for the Appellate Court. The work was classically inspired and consisted of allegorical portrayals of men and woman. The Jury of Awards was unanimous in granting the commission to Albert H. Krehbiel.
Reducing his teaching schedule to summer sessions only, Krehbiel, with Dulah’s help, spent four years on the research, preparation, and composition of the Illinois Supreme and Appellate Court murals, which evolve into designs quite different from what he had originally planned. Having purchased a home in Park Ridge (a town ten miles northwest of Chicago), they bought an adjacent vacant lot, had a barn moved onto the property, and converted it into a studio. Large canvases were ordered from Paris and pulleys and scaffolds were constructed for the hanging and rolling of the canvases. Dulah created Grecian gowns and robes, posing in them so that their draping would appear authentic.
When each of the thirteen murals was completed, the canvas was transported to Springfield and installed. The final mural was completed and installed in 1911. Mr. W. Carby Zimmerman, architect of the Supreme Court Building, considered the work done by Krehbiel to be “an example of the best mural painting ever executed in the West”. (Click here to see the Murals Exhibit.) In Art Across America, Two Centuries Of Regional Painting, 1710-1920, (Volume Two; Abbeville Press, New York; p. 319), author William Gerdts states:
“. . . (Frederic Clay) Bartlett may share the distinction as Chicago’s most renowned muralist of the early twentieth century with Albert Krehbiel.”
The State of Illinois site featuring Albert Krehbiel's murals in the Supreme and Appellate Courtrooms is here.
Krehbiel returned to full time instruction at the Art Institute in 1911, teaching students about the use of color, design, and space. In 1913, he also joined the faculty of the Armour Institute of Technology (later named the Illinois Institute of Technology) as an instructor of architectural drawing. It is here that Krehbiel, many years later in 1938, developed a close friendship with architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Having left Germany in 1937 for the United States, Mies van der Rohe headed the department of architecture at the Armour Institute from 1938 until his retirement in 1958. Krehbiel, notably, was the only in-place instructor that Mies van der Rohe kept on the staff. Speaking in German, at which Krehbiel was fluent, they would frequently discuss their work over martinis at the Cliff Dwellers, an important Chicago artistic social club of which they were both members (and where Krehbiel then resides), with Mies van der Rohe puffing away at a cigar and Krehbiel smoking his pipe.