Every day I will be proud of my creative choices

Saturday, July 9, 2011

"The Human Figure" by John H. Vanderpoel

The Vanderpoel Art Collection
Ridge Park Fieldhouse, Chicago, IL

This collection is taken care of by Grace and Sid Hamper, a husband and wife team who volunteer their time.
The Vanderpoel Art Association was founded in 1913 by Friends of John H. Vanderpoel, as a memorial to this celebrated instructor from Chicago's School of the Art Institute. Legendary artist Georgia O'Keefe praissed him as "one of the few real teachers I have Known." The Vanderpoel Art Association collection includes more than 600 works of art, of which approximately one third are on display in our gallery on a rotating basis. Just a few of the famous artists included in the collection are Mary Cassatt, Frederick Freer, Edward Dufner, Maxfield Parrish, Carl Von Marr, Joseph Leyendecker and Frank Benson.

Scott and I visited this museum on a very cold wintry day a couple of years ago while on a trip to Chicago. The couple who takes care of this collection volunteers their time 3 days a week, they came in especially for us on one of their days off. We got lost trying to find it because when we got there, we didn't believe it was the real place. We actually went up to the building which is in a residential area of the very south side of Chicago and asked a couple of people walking into the building if this is where the Vanderpoel museum was and they had never heard of it, so we went off to another arts building a few miles away. The people at this location didn't really know about this collection we were trying to see, but they guessed that the place we had just come from was the right place. So, we drove back worried that the couple wouldn't still be there. We walked into a building probably built in the 1920's with gymnasiums and community rooms and an outdated weight room for the public. There was a little sign that lead up a few stairs into a big room with wall to wall art hanging on the walls. It didn't have heat or air conditioning and I worried about the safety of all these precious paintings. We were flustered from our driving around and told the couple that we had asked people at the door and they had never heard of this collection. The couple said that was something they had to deal with a lot. After calming down a little and chatting with them about how long they had been volunteering there and how the collection came about, we learned that it was nonprofit and that years ago the Art Instituted of Chicago had declined the original drawings for the book that Vanderpoel had produced, "The Human Figure", which has become my number one book that I recommend to students. The collection consists of paintings donated by students that have studied under Vanderpoel. That really shows how important he is to art history.

I only had my little snap and shoot camera, so I started taking shots of the walls while Scott talked with the nice couple. I was over whelmed, I did not expect to see all these amazing paintings. I almost couldn't take the excitment of seeing the orginal drawings that he had done for the book.  Below are just some of the pages, there were just too many for me to include. The actual drawings are about 14 by 11 inches. The recent editions of "The Human Figure" are washed out because they don't print the new ones from original plates, they probably just take photos of old books. I didn't realize that these drawings were done on toned paper with the use of white pencil for the lights. The couple said the association that looks over this collection would love to have someone take professional images for them and for a future book. 

above is one of the illustrations that Vanderpoel did for cermamics.

You can see a beautiful Benson to the left, the women in the red dress

This is the case that the drawings are housed.

The information below came from a brochure.
John H. Vanderpoel, who was a resident of the Beverly Hills community at the turn of the 20th century.  Mr. Vanderpoel was a distinguished instructor and director at Chicago's School of the Art Institute.

John Vanderpoel was author of "The Human Figure," first published in 1908 and still in print. It is considered a classic text in art instruction. A bound volume of original sketches for this book, contributed by the Art Institute, is on exhibit in the northwest corner of the gallery. 

An artist known primarily for his mural decoration and easel painting, John Vanderpoel was also an instructor at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1880 to 1906. In 1909, he became Director of the People's University in University City , Missouri . Reinforcing the assertion that he was a very effective teacher are the words of one of his students, Georgia O'Keeffe, who praised him as "one of the few real teachers I have known." Among his more popular classes were the ones conducted outdoors at St. Joseph , Michigan , and Dayville , Illinois . He also taught classes at Delavan , Wisconsin .
Vanderpoel was born Johannes/Jan van der Poel) in the Haarlemmermeer of The Netherlands on November 15, 1857 and was the son of Jan van der Poel and Maria van Nes, who were born in Rijsoord. They married on May 10, 1848 in Ridderkerk and had ten children, with Johannes being number seven. The family also included a sister, Mathilde, who became an artist.
The mother Maria van Nes died in the Haarlemmermeer in 1867. In 1869, Jan van der Poel emigrated to the United States with all of his children, including John Vanderpoel, whose talent as a painter was well served because he got a good education in America and later in Paris at the Academie Julian. However, at age fourteen, he had a fall in a wrestling match in a gymnasium that caused him to be a cripple for life, and at age thirty-five, he lost sight in one eye.
In 1888 with a group of students from Paris , he visited for the first time, Rijsoord, the hometown of his parents. During the 1888 floods, when the flax and potato crops were ruined, a number of art students gave a benefit to aid citizens of Rijsoord.
John Vanderpoel has written the book The Human Figure, which became a standard text book in the teaching of figurative painter. A Vanderpoel Memorial Art Collection is in Chicago , and this houses many paintings, prints and sculptures commemorating the artist by his peers as well as works by Vanderpoel.
Five of his paintings were exhibited at the Columbian Exposition in 1893, and his painting Little Miss Muffett won a bronze medal at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition. Among his murals are an eight-section ceiling mural in De Paul University's College Theatre on the Lincoln Park campus, and a sixty-foot mural at the Alexander Hotel in Los Angeles .
The John H. Vanderpoel Art Association, Courtesy Sidney Hamper, President
In 1882, the Leyendecker family immigrated to Chicago, Illinois, where Elizabeth's uncle had founded the successful McAvoy Brewing Company. After working in late adolescence for a Chicago engraving firm, J. Manz & Company, and completing his first commercial commission of sixty Bible illustrations for the Powers Brothers Company, J. C. sought formal artistic training at the school of the Chicago Art Institute.

After studying drawing and anatomy under John H. Vanderpoel at the Chicago Art Institute, J. C. and younger brother Frank enrolled in the Académie Julian in Paris for a year, where they were exposed to the work of Toulouse-Lautrec, Jules Chéret, and also Alfons Mucha, a leader in the French Art Nouveau movement.[3] [4]


  1. Sue, thank you so very very much for this incredibly detailed post. My sister lives literally down the street from here, and I have also tried to find the museum but could not - no one knew what I was even talking about!
    I was on a painting trip this weekend and could only catch a glimpse of your post via Facebook on my iphone. I couldn't wait to get back so I could see these paintings and drawings! Thank you SO much for this history! Amazing!

  2. Thanks Sue - really enjoyed seeing the images - even with your "little point and shoot" they are still much better than the book!

  3. Susan, Awesome blog. Interesting and thought-provoking content. An instant follow. And your art is incredible, as always.

  4. Thank you for posting this,Susan. I have that book but the print isn't really that good but your photo save some of them.

  5. I recently made a visit to the Vanderpoel Art Collection housed in Ridge Park Field House and had the good fortune in meeting Sid and Grace Hamper. My first exposure to this collection occurred when I was 7 years old and taking art classes in the room beneath this gallery. While I was impressed with all the paintings, one in particular remained etched in my memory...that of Mary Danforth Page and STUDY OF A CHILD. Having viewed many notable collections in my life-time, this painting still warms my heart.

    Susan Engle Budash
    Morgan Park HS Class of 1967

  6. JHV was my great grandfather. I took one of his paintings to the Antiques Roadshow taping in Charlotte, NC. I also took a first edition copy of The Human Figure. We were a featured item, both the painting and the book. I have numerous pencil sketches from the Netherlands trip, plus a few small oils. The Philadelphia Sketch Club has a number plaster castings made from the drawings in The Human Figure.