The Columbus Museum of Art welcomes its inaugural class.
Move over, Brett Favre. Hello, Alice Schille.
You know about first ballot hall of famers, right? The term refers to athletes elected to a hall of fame the first year they become eligible for induction—as Favre, a beloved NFL quarterback, was when he earned a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016. Earlier this month, Columbus-born artist Schille (1869-1955) pulled off the feat in the realm of fine arts when she was chosen as one of the first inductees to the Columbus Museum of Art’s new Ohio Artists Hall of Fame.
Schille and fellow Columbus native George Bellows (1882-1925) were selected by a five-person jury. The inductees were made public at An Evening with Art, a museum fundraiser held on March 3, as covered in Columbus Monthly’s March issue in which we correctly guessed who the inaugural members would be (along with a few other ideas for future inductees).
Although the hall of fame is open to artists throughout the state who have been deceased for at least 10 years, museum leaders decided it wouldn’t be a bad idea if the inaugural inductees hailed from Central Ohio.
“We thought it appropriate, since it’s starting here in Columbus, for us to pick two hometown favorites,” says CMA executive director Nannette Maciejunes.
Despite their shared backgrounds, this year’s hall of famers differ in significant ways.
Bellows, whose paintings presented bold, sometimes brutal views of cities, quit Ohio State University to make a life for himself on the East Coast, where he quickly burnished his reputation.
“George Bellows is sort of the classic story of American success, particularly American male success,” Maciejunes says. “He goes to school and then he goes off to New York. He makes a big splash; he’s in all the right shows.”
Schille, by contrast, spent much of her life in Columbus, where she taught at the Columbus Art School, now the Columbus College of Art & Design. When school was out of session, she headed for far-flung locales that provided inspiration for her expressive, elegant watercolors.
“She would spend her holidays and her summers traveling to places where there were other artists working, so you get work from Paris, you get work from Morocco,” Maciejunes says. “She was all over the place.”
Yet, despite receiving acclaim in her time, Schille is less well known today; Maciejunes wonders if it might be due to her gender.
“Clearly, the work is very strong, and it’s really stayed strong,” Maciejunes says. “So there’s other reasons why she fell out of the narrative. Why do you know John Singer Sargent and John Marin but you don’t know Alice Schille?”
The artist’s profile may rise thanks to her newfound status in the Ohio Artists Hall of Fame—not that the art fans in attendance for the announcement were especially taken aback by her inclusion.
“There was not too much surprise, just because they’re two hometown favorites,” Maciejunes says. “I think people were pleased.”
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