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Albert H. Krehbiel, American Impressionist

Saugatuck, Michigan -- Rolling Hills and the Kankakee River


In 1926, Krehbiel helped pioneer the Chicago Art Institute Summer School of Painting (later named Ox-Bow School) in Saugatuck, Michigan. The school was founded as the Saugatuck School of Summer Painting in 1910 by a group of Chicago artists led by his friend, Frederick Fursman. The summer migration of artists to Saugatuck began in 1900 when the daughter of the owner of one of the resort hotels invited some of her classmates from The Art Institute of Chicago to vacation there. Among them were Albert Krehbiel and Dulah Evans. By the mid-1920s. the Saugatuck School had become the summer art Mecca for commercial artists and architects from cities throughout the Midwest, as well as students and alumni of The Art Institute. Beginning in 1926, Saugatuck became an ever-increasing weekend and holiday retreat for Krehbiel and he spent the rest of his summers teaching and painting there. In 1934, he opened his own summer school of art in Saugatuck called the AK Studio.

When able to free himself from his students in Saugatuck, Krehbiel painted many scenes overlooking the Kalamazoo River and the neighboring rolling hills using different mediums. He also had several occasions in the winters to visit and portray the area in its vast and billowing cover of snow. (Click here to see Saugatuck Exhibit.)

Throughout the 1980s, Marshall Salzman - a student of Krehbiel’s at the AK Studio as well as at the Armour Institute in the late 1930s – wrote many letters to Rebecca F. Krehbiel, Albert Krehbiel’s daughter-in-law. These letters reveal much about Krehbiel’s character and his resolute dedication to the teaching and practice of drawing and painting. In one letter (not dated), Mr. Salzman writes:

“ . . . Prof. K. gave a two-hour lecture to all graduating architects (at the Illinois Institute of Technology) at their request. Needless to say, he was happy to do this absolutely free . . .. Prof. K. and I were in the Saugatuck Studio on a Sunday (when) a chauffer-driven car pulled up in front and a well-groomed lady got out . . .. She explained to Prof. K. that she represented a very fancy art group and was willing to pay him $300 to speak to her club for 30 minutes. In addition, her chauffer would pick him up and bring him back. Prof. K. said, ‘if you would be kind enough to write your name and phone number on a piece of paper, I will call you within two days if I can make it. However, if I do not call, I will not be able to go.’ She handed him the paper and thanked him. As the car drove off, he tore up the name and phone number and put it in the wastebasket. I asked what in the world he did that for since he gave our group a two-hour chalk talk every Saturday and we were paying so little. Prof. K. turned to me and said, ‘I don’t think they would understand what I was saying, and would make little use of what they might understand.’ Wouldn’t it be a great world if all teachers had that much integrity?”

In another letter, Mr. Salzman writes of Krehbiel’s entertaining ability at making drawing appear amazingly effortless and the reverence that his students felt for his talent:

“ . . . I remember one day we were all drawing nude compositions of a model. Prof. K. walked up to Miss Tibbs (a student) and said, ‘ You use this fine charcoal that is so thin it’s almost like drawing with a pencil.’ Then he said he was going to show her how to loosen up. This drew a crowd as we all gathered around, knowing a demonstration was in its way. He was fully aware of the total attention of the entire group. He said, ‘I was going to tell you to use a larger charcoal, but I think it might be better for you to use your thumb’, at which point he crushed a bunch of charcoal on the bench. Then he said, ‘On second thought, I would like you to use the palm of your hand.’ He rubbed his palm in the charcoal dust as he eyed the model and proceeded to put on a show that I had never seen before or since. In three strokes he drew the entire pose with the finest edge you’ve ever seen and shaded out to perfection. We all applauded and I think he was pleased with the result and our reaction to his skill.”