Editor's note:  The majority of the text of the following article is derived from the writing, Albert Henry  Krehbiel (1873-1945): American Impressionist, Muralist, and Art Educator by Donald T. Ryan, Jr.; 37 pages of illustrated biographical text; copyright 2001, Krehbiel Corporation.  The notes referred to in the following text, as well as the sources and acknowledgements which attributed to the writing are listed at the end of the article. The article is reprinted with the permission of Krehbiel Corporation. For images, please visit www.KrehbielArt.com.


Albert Henry Krehbiel (1873-1945): American Impressionist, Muralist and Art Educator 

By Donald T. Ryan, Jr.


Albert Henry Krehbiel, one of seven children, was born in Denmark, Iowa, in 1873 and moved with his family to Newton, Kansas, in 1879, where his father was a prosperous carriage and buggy maker and, later, a co-founder of Bethel College. Krehbiel graduated from Bethel College in Newton and studied for a year at the School of Design and Painting in Topeka, Kansas. In 1898, Art Institute of Chicago Director William Merchant Richardson French discovered Krehbiel's talents while on a lecture tour in Newton and encouraged him to further pursue a career in art by enrolling at The Art Institute. Heeding Mr. French's advice, he labored for the next four years at The Art Institute as a student and, in the fifth year, as a drawing instructor. In 1902, Krehbiel was granted an American Traveling Scholarship by The Art Institute to study abroad.

Arriving in Holland on July 23rd, 1903, Krehbiel landed in Paris at the end of September to study at the Académie Julian under muralist and history painter, Jean-Paul Laurens. In 1905, two of Krehbiel's neoclassical works were accepted by jury for exhibition at the prestigious Exposition Annuelle des Beaux-Arts Salon at the Salon Des Artistes Francais (also known as the Paris Salon) 123rd exposition. Between winter sessions at the Académie Julian, Krehbiel spent his summers traveling throughout France and Holland (often with his friend and fellow artist, Joseph Raphael), sketching the local citizens in their daily routine of work and at rest. Krehbiel would reproduce many of the sketches in oil on canvas when back in Paris.

During his last year abroad, Krehbiel made a walking and painting tour of Spain and, upon receiving special permission from Museo Del Prado in Madrid, he created several studies first hand of works done by Diego Velazquez. (Nine of the studies were later shown at The Art Institute of Chicago's Exhibition of Artists' Copies of Old Masters in 1910). Throughout his three-year stay in Europe, Krehbiel won four gold medals at the Académie Julian (the only American ever to have done so) as well as the coveted Prix de Rome and other prizes and honors, including the awarded permanent placement of one of his works on the school's walls.

Returning to the United States in 1906, Krehbiel rejoined the faculty of The Art Institute of Chicago at the urging of Mr. French. That same year, he married his beloved Art Institute classmate, Dulah Marie Evans, also a highly talented artist. (After graduating from The Art Institute, Dulah was a resident of the Tree Studios in Chicago from 1903 through 1905. Continuing her education, Dulah completed her postgraduate work at the Art Students League in New York, where she won many first place awards in illustration classes under the instruction of Walter Appleton Clark.  She also studied at the Charles Hawthorne School in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and at the New York School of Art under William Merritt Chase. Dulah went on to have an extremely accomplished career as a painter, printmaker, illustrator, and commercial artist.

While maintaining a full-time teaching schedule at The Art Institute in 1906, Krehbiel received the commission to design and paint the murals for the walls of the Juvenile Court Room in Chicago. In 1907, having completed the Juvenile Court murals, Krehbiel also 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. The Jury of Awards was unanimous in granting the commission to Albert H. Krehbiel with his mural designs depicting the "Origin, Function, and Continuity of Law" using allegorical and mythological figures.

Reducing his teaching schedule to summer sessions only, Krehbiel and his wife spent several years on the research, preparation, and composition of the Illinois Supreme Court murals. They purchased a vacant lot next to their home in Park Ridge (a suburb north of Chicago), 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 the draping would appear authentic. When completed in 1911, the canvases were transported to Springfield and installed. 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."

Krehbiel returned to full time instruction at the Art Institute in 1911, teaching young 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 later, in 1938, developed a close friendship with Armour Institute Director and fellow member of the Cliff Dwellers (a highly regarded Chicago artistic social club), architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who had arrived in Chicago from Germany the previous year.  Van der Rohe and Krehbiel would frequently discuss their work over martinis at the Cliff Dwellers, with van der Rohe puffing away at a cigar while Krehbiel smoked his pipe.

"Shortly after completing the Illinois Supreme Court murals, Krehbiel's work changed direction.  Instead of painting entirely in his studio, he began to seek the outdoors and to paint the atmospheric effects of sun, fog, and snow, with broad visible brush strokes.  It was at this time that Krehbiel began to incorporate the principles of impressionism into his work."[1] Some examples of his transitional works are Two Ladies in the Grape Arbor (ca. 1913, 32" x 19", oil on canvas), Lady and Her Bowl of Nasturtiums (ca. 1914, 22" x 30", oil on canvas), and Away to Fairyland (ca. 1913, 33" x 20", oil on canvas).  "Here, Krehbiel painted casual color scenes with a naturalistic approach that, at the same time, had sharp contours and shading of drapery folds recalling the principles of a more classical 19th century academic manner of presentation.  However, the heightened color tone levels along with the subdued quality of the trees and landscape suggest that he was experimenting with some of the techniques established by the impressionists of France and their followers in America." [1] 

Beginning in 1918 and continuing through the early 1920s, Krehbiel spent a good part of his summers at an art colony in Santa Monica, California, with Dulah, Evans (their son and only child), and Dulah's sister, Mayetta, where he painted impressionistic high-keyed shoreline views and landscapes while Dulah painted her son and sister in various settings. Krehbiel spent the balance of the summers of 1918 through 1922 in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  From 1920 through 1923 -- at times again traveling with Dulah, Evans, and Mayetta -- Krehbiel was an exhibiting member of the Santa Fe Art Colony. "He was very well respected as an artist in Santa Fe, as well as in Chicago, during these years.  In 1922 and 1923, Krehbiel was invited to Santa Fe by the Museum of New Mexico to participate in its Visiting Artists Program and given a studio in the historic Palace of the Governors next door to his contemporary, Ashcan realist Robert Henri.  In a letter from Santa Fe in 1922, Krehbiel wrote:

'I must tell you of the many kindnesses I have received here from the friends of the museum . . . Dr. Hewett from the beginning has been gracious and allotted me one of the four studios maintained for visiting artists.  Robert Henri, by the way, has been my neighbor.'" [2]

Krehbiel had associations and exhibitions with other artists of the Santa Fe Art Colony -- and the Taos Society of Artists -- such as George Bellows and Gustave Baumann (exhibition in McPherson, Kansas, 1918), and B. J. O. Nordfeldt, Marsden Hartley, and Sheldon Parsons (exhibition in El Paso, Texas, 1920).  Additional notable artists that Krehbiel exhibited with during this period include Victor Higgins, Earnest Blumenschein, John Sloan, Raymond Johnson, and Stuart Davis. [2]

In 1926, Krehbiel helped pioneer the Chicago Art Institute Summer School of Painting (later named Ox-Bow School) in Saugatuck, Michigan, where he spent most of the balance of his summers teaching and painting. In 1934, he opened his own summer school of art there 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.

"Like most American impressionists, Krehbiel did not subscribe to scientific color theories of the original French impressionists.  Rather, he adopted other methods and lessons of impressionism.  He was committed to painting outdoors in natural light and to capturing with a very personal vision the constantly changing character of the Midwest's landscape, done mainly in winter along the banks of the Chicago North Branch River and the Des Plaines River." [1]  During the years of 1912 through about 1930, Krehbiel was known to leave his Park Ridge home on a freezing cold morning and not return until the end of the day with two or three freshly painted canvases of the surrounding landscape.  He also composed many watercolors and countless pastels of the area, often capturing the local inhabitants in the warmer months working in the fields or taking a moment to enjoy the lush forest landscape populated with brooks and streams.  Occasionally, Krehbiel would visit the northern Illinois town of Galena on weekends and holidays to paint large canvases of the tree-covered hills with their scattering of homes and barns.

When teaching and residing (at the Cliff Dwellers) in downtown Chicago, "Krehbiel turned to recreating the surrounding urban landscapes, most of them within walking distance to his classrooms at The Art Institute of Chicago.  These familiar scenes were painted between classes from the banks of the Chicago River and most of them were done during rush hour, when automobiles and pedestrians populated the bridges and streets." [1]

Krehbiel painted the Michigan Avenue Bridge and the Chicago River numerous times, each from a different perspective.  Most of the images of the bridge were executed in 1920, the year of its grand opening, with the bridge towers draped in banners of red, white, and blue ribbons.  In Krehbiel's Chicago works, the colors used to depict the buildings in the background - pink, lavender, and pale blue - take into account the effects of diffused light and solid forms are composed of thick wedges of unblended color laid side-by-side.  In Dusk Over Chicago El Station (November 1926, 12" x 14", oil on board), the orange and yellow colors implemented to portray the illuminated windows of the buildings and the automobile lights in the early evening traffic actually appear to emanate light from the canvas. Urban cityscapes such as these had become icons of European Impressionism. [1]

Beginning in around 1926 and continuing through the early 1940's, Krehbiel created a series of synchromistic figure compositions in watercolor and in oil on small, unstretched pieces of canvas and, in the latter years, in pastel and in oil on larger canvases as well. [1]  The figures in this series reproduce the postures of models in his art classes and, while naturalistic at first, they gradually become geometric, even somewhat cubist. [3]   In 1942, Krehbiel wrote in a letter to Evans:

". . . (I) never thought of them as nudes, but simply as a power in organization . . . it became a problem of thrusts and counter thrusts, much like a chess game."   [3]

Krehbiel developed this new style into a method of teaching figure depiction by having students compose while drawing.  Sketches of a three-figure model group, observed from various points in the room, would be rendered on a single sheet of paper - or a series of quick poses by one model would be composed on a single sheet.  In regard to this teaching method, Krehbiel writes:

". . .The student should create at the same time he is learning to draw . . .. He has to have ideas to make his drawing count." [3]

As for the results of his own efforts along these lines, Krehbiel later speculated that:

" . . . I may be able to peddle them for five or ten apiece when I get out of a job."  [3]

Krehbiel also produced a large number of landscapes in this synchromistic and relatively abstract style beginning in 1926.  Created mainly in Saugatuck, most of these works were done in pastel on paper and were predominantly 9" x 11" and 10" x 12" in size.  With most of the pieces, the bright colors seem to emit luminescence and the landscape characteristics come together in sections of singular blended forms. In the early 1940s, Krehbiel created a grouping of very large synchromistic figure compositions on soft-toned paper using pastel, watercolor, and colored chalk -- at times employing a combination of these mediums.  Similar in structure to his smaller figure compositions, these works contain throngs of hauntingly composed groups of figures with a mystic quality, sure in line and merged in bold areas of brilliant color.  [4] 

Inspired by a major exhibition of works by Pablo Picasso at The Art Institute of Chicago in 1940, Krehbiel also drew a number of colorful large abstract studies using chalk on the same type of soft-toned paper.  These experimental compositions were amusingly signed "Picasso . . . par AHK " and were largely done for the enjoyment of his fellow Cliff Dwellers members in an exhibit held there in April of 1940.  Relating his feelings about abstract art and the artist's right and ability to successfully procure its formulation, Krehbiel writes:

"Often I have been asked by my students to start a class outside and teach abstract art but I tell them it is no use, it cannot be taught. It is the sum of a classical education and comes only with the study of a motif when all is boiled down to its very essence." [3]

Throughout the years when at home in Illinois, Krehbiel painted continuously. From his historic Chicago street and river scenes and his rural and wooded presentations of Midwest forests and the hills and valleys of Galena to his synchromistic figure compositions, he painted incessantly and in all seasons without regard for the elements. Albert Henry Krehbiel passed away suddenly on June 29, 1945, from a heart attack while preparing for a road trip with his son, Evans, to visit relatives in Kansas. His death occurred on the very day of his retirement from teaching at the Illinois Institute of Technology, although he had agreed to stay on at The Art Institute of Chicago for one more year.

During his prolific career, Krehbiel had his works shown in a multitude of exhibitions, including the American Art Association (Paris, 1905), Salon Des Artistes Francais (Paris, 1905), Museo Nacional de Pintura Y. Escultura (Madrid, 1906), the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (1923, 1928, and 1931), the Fiesta Exhibition of Paintings by Artists of New Mexico at the Museum of New Mexico in Santa Fe (1923), the First Exhibition of the National Society of Mural Painters at the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy Albright Art Gallery (Buffalo, New York, 1925), and a total of thirty-two exhibitions at The Art Institute of Chicago from 1906 through 1939. In addition to those previously mentioned, Krehbiel had exhibitions with many other notable artists of his day such as George Bellows (McPherson, Kansas, in 1918) and B.J.O. Nordfeldt, Marsden Hartley, and Sheldon Parsons (El Paso, Texas, in 1920).

Krehbiel was a member of the Cliff Dwellers, Chicago Painters and Sculptors, Mural Painters of New York, and the Chicago Galleries Association. In addition to his earlier awards for painting, he won the following in exhibitions at The Art Institute of Chicago: the Clyde Carr Prize for Landscape by an American Artist, the Martin B. Cahn Prize for Painting by a Chicago Artist (1922), the American Artists Exhibit of Landscapes Award, the Mrs. William H. Thompson Prize (1919), and the Municipal Art League Prize for Landscapes.

Many of Krehbiel's works are held in private collections throughout the world as well as in the collections of The Art Institute of Chicago, Museums of San Francisco M.H. de Young Museum, the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, The University of Michigan Museum of Art in Ann Arbor, the De Paul University Art Gallery in Chicago, the John Vanderpoel Art Association in Chicago, the Dubuque Museum of Art in Dubuque, Iowa, and The Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company in Fort Worth, Texas. Krehbiel has work listed in the Smithsonian Institution Inventories of American Paintings and Sculpture and selected archival material on Krehbiel's career is available at the Smithsonian Institution Archives of American Art in Washington, D. C., as well as at The Art Institute of Chicago's Ryerson and Burnham Libraries and at fine art libraries throughout the country.



1) Albert Krehbiel: An American Impressionist , by Kim Coventry; Sonnenschien Gallery, Lake Forest College, Lake Forest, Illinois; 1989; 11 pp., ill.

2) Albert Krehbiel, Santa Fe Works , exhibition catalogue by Catherine Whitney; Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1996; 35 pp., color ill.; ISBN 0-935039-93-4.

3) Krehbiel, Life and Works of an American Artist , by Robert Guinan; 109 pp., color ill; Regnery Gateway, 1991; ISBN 0-89526-533-8 (acid-free paper)

4) Albert H. Krehbiel - An Architect's Appreciation , article in Illinois Society of Architects, Monthly Bulletin ; October - November 1945; Vol. 30, Nos. 4 - 5.



Albert H. Krehbiel - An Architect's Appreciation, article in Illinois Society of Architects, Monthly Bulletin; October - November 1945; Vol. 30, Nos. 4 - 5.

Albert Henry Krehbiel, 1873-1945; Early American Impressionist, article by Rebecca F. Krehbiel (Mrs. Evans L.) in the Journal of the Illinois Historical Society, ISSN 0019-2287, Spring 1984; pp. 14 - 20.

Albert H. Krehbiel, biography compiled for the Krehbiel family by Rebecca F. Krehbiel (Mrs. Evans L.); 1978; 16 pp., illus.

Albert Krehbiel: An American Impressionist, by Kim Coventry; Sonnenschien Gallery, Lake Forest College, Lake Forest, Illinois; 1989; 11 pp., ill.

Albert Krehbiel, Santa Fe Works, exhibition catalogue by Catherine Whitney; Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico; 1996; 35 pp., color ill. ; ISBN 0-935039-93-4.

Allegories of Justice, The Albert H. Krehbiel Murals in the Supreme Court Building of Illinois, cover article by Lizabeth (Betsy) Wilson; Journal of the Illinois Historical Society, ISSN 0019-2287, Spring 1984; pp. 2 -13.

Allegories of Justice, The Albert H. Krehbiel Murals in the Supreme Court Building of Illinois, research paper by Betsy Wilson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; presented at the Tenth Annual Meeting of the Midwest Art Historical Society, Iowa City, Iowa, April 1st, 1983; 12 pp.

Art Across America, Two Centuries of Regional Painting, 1710-1920,Volume II; by William Gerdts; ; Abbeville Press, New York, 1990; p. 319.

Art and Architecture, section of El Palacio, vol. V, No. 13, October 19, 1918, p. 217; published by the Museum of New Mexico and the School of American Research.

Catalog of the First Exhibition of the National Society of Mural Painters, September 25th - October 26th, 1925, p. 7.; The Buffalo Fine Arts Academy Allbright Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York. 

Community Planning, section in El Palacio, vol. VIII, No1-2, January 31, 1920, p. 51; published by the Museum of New Mexico and the School of American Research, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Dulah Marie Evans (Dulah Evans Krehbiel) 1875-1951: American Painter, Illustrator and Printmaker, article written by Jane Meyer; Resource Library Magazine; December 1, 2001.

Fiesta Exhibition, including the Eleventh Annual Exhibit of Taos Society of Artists, section in El Palacio, Vol. XV, No. 6, September 15, 1923, pp.98-99; published by the Museum of New Mexico and the School of American Research, Santa Fe, New Mexico..

Krehbiel, Life and Works of an American Artist, by Robert Guinan;  Regnery Gateway, Lanham, MD; 1991; 33 p., [67] p. of plates: ill. (most col.).

Mural Paintings and Bad Boys, article in Architectural Record, January 1908, pp. 77-78.

The Annual Exhibition Record of the Art Institute of Chicago, 1888-1950 ; Peter Hastings Falk, editor, Andrea Ansell Bien, assistant editor; Sound View Press, 1990; pp. 525-526.

The Annual Exhibition Record of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts , 1914-1968. Peter Hastings Falk, editor; 1989; 538 p.

The court of A. Krehbiel: A niche in the landscape of Illinois art , article by Steve Slack, Saturday Magazine, The State Journal Register ; September 27, 1980; pp. 8A-9A; Springfield, Illinois. 

The letters and writings of Albert Henry Krehbiel held in the archives of the Krehbiel Corporation, Evanston, Illinois. These letters and writings as well as further archival material on Albert Krehbiel are available on microfilm at the Smithsonian Institution Archives of American Art in Washington, DC, as well as at the Art Institute of Chicago's Ryerson and Burnham Libraries.



Much of the text of this account of Albert Krehbiel's life and works is derived from the following sources:

Albert Krehbiel: An American Impressionist, by Kim Coventry; Sonnenschien Gallery, Lake Forest College, Lake Forest, Illinois; 1989; 11 p., ill.

Allegories of Justice, The Albert H. Krehbiel Murals in the Supreme Court Building of Illinois, cover article by Lizabeth (Betsy) Wilson; Journal of the Illinois Historical Society , ISSN 0019-2287, Spring 1984; pp. 2 -13.

Krehbiel, Life and Works of an American Artist, by Robert Guinan; Regnery Gateway, Washington, D.C; 1991; 33 p., [66] p. of plates: ill.(most color)

The authors of these sources deserve a great deal of the credit for this writing.  Their diligent and exhaustive research and excellent artistic analysis helped to make this biography possible.  

Special thanks and appreciation to Jane Meyer of J. Meyer Fine Art, Elburn, Illinois, for her continuous contribution in researching the extensive writings, letters, and archival material of Albert Henry Krehbiel.                                                                                             

                                                                                          Don Ryan


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