Editor's note: The following essay, with endnotes, was rekeyed and reprinted on June 4, 2002 in Resource Library Magazine with permission of the Lightner Museum. The essay was published in October 2001 in the 119 page illustrated book titled Lost Colony: The Artists of St. Augustine, 1930-1950, ISBN 0-97-13560-0-9. Images accompanying the text in the book were not reproduced with this reprinting except for two sample images. If you have questions or comments regarding the essay, or if you have interest in obtaining a copy of the book, please contact the Lightner Museum directly through either this phone number or web address:


Lost Colony: The Artists of St. Augustine, 1930-1950

by Robert W. Torchia



From the Founding of the Arts Club Through the 1930's


In the spring of 1931 Muller-Uri and the amateur painter J. Dexter Phinney (1896-1947) organized the St. Augustine Arts Club by gathering a core group of members from the nearly defunct Galleon Club. Hawkins joined and proved herself a valuable asset by making sure that the Record reported on all of the new organization's activities.[12] Phinney, who owned a jewelry store and was a member of the Jaycees, was ideally qualified to initiate what: became the Arts Club's distinguishing characteristic: its strong alliance with the city's business community. The Galleon Club had always catered to the interests of art professionals and dilettantes, but Phinney was a pragmatic, civic-minded individual who recognized that the new club offered a means to transform St. Augustine into a major winter art colony, and thereby restore the city to its former status as a popular winter tourist attraction. On November 13 Phinney, Adele Barret, and her husband Arthur B. Barret (d. 1940), a past president of the Galleon Club, persuaded the St. Augustine and St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce and the Junior Chamber of Commerce to support their application to city authorities to use the former waterworks building in Davenport Park as a clubhouse and exhibition gallery.[13]

Later the following week Arthur Barret presented the request before a city commission and pointed out that "he and the organization he represented were offering a new industry, a new source of income, to St. Augustine, as an art center which has the proper facilities for artists, such as a clubhouse and exhibition rooms, as well as natural beauty and ancient landmarks [that] is a real drawing card, and brings many additional people into the community:"[14] The authorities were sympathetic, but deliberations dragged on while city attorney E. Noble Calhoun considered certain legal technicalities.[15] When the request was granted later in December, the Arts Club's first president Ralph H. Hillbom (1894-1977), a commercial artist who worked for the Record, thanked the commission and stated that his organization would use the building "in a wholehearted effort to attract artists to St. Augustine."

Painters, sculptors, writers, musicians, all the arts are welcome in the membership of the club. They will be most welcome, either local artists or those from out of the city. It will be our particular duty to attract outsiders here, and to give them opportunities for local acquaintanceships, and a club home.
Let me remind the citizens, whether they are artists or not, that this is a very unusual opportunity, one which starts as a means of cultivating things of beauty, history, and the like, and results in a fine business proposition, that of increasing our number of visitors, and, we hope, home-seekers here.
At this time everyone can rejoice because even in the time of so much gloom, the citizens have started an upbuilding, constructive program all our own. It really means we are able to take advantage of our chance to sail before the wind, I mean to say that the whole state of Florida is at least more or less aware of our chance to advertise and sell, you might say, our beauty and historic background to the artist[s] of the country. New England has had heretofore almost a monopoly of the artists who literally swarm there in the summer months to paint, write, etc. They are to be counted in the hundreds of thousands. We must attract our share of them to the state and to St. Augustine.[16]

Hillbom thus succinctly stated the civic mission and objectives that would determine the Arts Club's future actions.

The Arts Club took measures to give St. Augustine's businessmen a more personal interest in art. In January 1932 Hillbom invited Elbert G. Drew (dates unknown) of Evanston, Illinois, to the city. Drew was an executive in the Illinois Bell Telephone Company who had turned to art as a form of recreation. He persuaded many of his coworkers and friends to follow his example, and in 1924 founded the Associated National Art Clubs. The Record spoke glowingly of how these business and professional men "have turned to art seeking an outlet for self-expression and they have found, many of them, late in life, an intriguing hobby that binds them together, gives them new vision, new ambition and new enthusiasm, a hobby that is in itself a career:"[17] Many individuals who played prominent roles in managing the Arts Club were businessmen who had turned to art as a diversion. The club consequently evolved into an egalitarian organization in which both professional and amateur artists exhibited together and enjoyed equal status. In early February the Record reported that "there are now seventy names on the club roster, and applications for membership are coming in all the time."[18]

The Arts Club planned to hold its first loan exhibition in the Davenport Park clubhouse (fig. 7) on February 15, and announced that "anyone having framed paintings, etchings, engravings and old maps pertaining to St. Augustine are invited to loan these for a period of two weeks:" They stated their intention that through "this loan exhibit the people of St. Augustine will be enabled to see pictures of great historical interest and value. The club is now doing everything possible to make St. Augustine an art center and the members feel that by having art exhibits the public may become more deeply interested in the idea and push the movement:"[19] The exhibition was postponed until February 18 when it was discovered that through an error in scheduling the clubhouse was being used by another group. The event was a great success. The guest speaker was the Italian-born painter Nunzio Vayana (1878-1960), president of the Artists Club in Hartford, Connecticut, and director of the Art Center and Summer Art School in Ogunquit, Maine. Vayana stated that "this Ancient City presented even more possibilities than Ogunquit,"and "the audience was in a constant flutter of enthusiasm" as he presented and discussed a selection of his paintings.[20]

In March the club hosted the fifth annual exhibition of the Florida Federation of Arts, This group, which had been founded in 1927 and incorporated in 1932, consisted of twenty-four Florida artists' organizations. The show featured fifty-three paintings of mostly Florida subjects by thirty-five artists. This event was followed by a large show of paintings by Vayana. After the exhibition the artist allowed three small pictures to be sold at a public auction to raise funds for purchasing casts from which the Arts Club's sketch class could draw. In addition to holding exhibitions, the Arts Club offered regular indoor and outdoor sketching classes that were under the supervision of a paid instructor. Visiting artists were welcome to attend these classes and to offer helpful suggestions, When a group met to sketch at the Castillo de San Marcos in October, the Record commented that "so far most of the class are employed during the week and go sketching for the pleasure of getting out of doors and at the same time practicing the delightful hobby of training the eye and hand to coordinate in observing and recording the beautiful."[21] The British-born portraitist Bernard Evans Ward (b. 1857),[22] who regularly visited and exhibited in Florida, was present and gave some criticism. In November the accountant John M. Kesson (dates unknown) was elected president: of the club. The following month the public was invited to attend an exhibition of work by the sketch classes, as well as three free slide lectures on American art and crafts that had been prepared by the American Federation of the Arts in Washington, D.C. Throughout 1932 club members were also occupied with the task of composing a constitution and by-laws; the first draft was completed and ready for review in December.

In February 1933 the club opened an exhibition of "work done by members of the sketch classes and by members who work in their own studios" -- a polite way of distinguishing between amateur and professional artists. The Record noted that the club was "justly proud of the progress made in one year and the showing of an exhibition which speaks eloquently of the ability and enthusiasm of the artists:"[23] In March the prominent socialite Susanne M. Atkinson (dates unknown) was elected president of the Arts Club. That month the group held an exhibition of works by visiting artists, several of whom played significant roles in its future: the painter, craftsperson, and teacher Lena May Newcastle (d. 1951), who left a large bequest to the organization that enabled it to build the Art Center in 1953; Edith E. Walker (known as Edith Walker Oliver [1889-1979] after her marriage to a St. Augustine carpenter in 1935), who became a permanent resident and one of the club's most active members; and the eccentric Louis C. Vogt (1864-1939), who came to St. Augustine in January 1933 with his friend the Cincinnati still-life painter Charles A. Meurer (1865-1955)[24] and for the remainder of the decade was considered one of the city's most talented painters.[25] In April the club opened an exhibition of paintings and landscapes by the internationally known sculptor, portraitist, and teacher Pietro Lazzari (1898-1979).[26] This was followed by a selection of fifty works from the sixth annual exhibition of the Florida Federation of Arts.[27] Around that time the Chicago artist Bill Galpin (dates unknown) was passing through St. Augustine on his way south, but: was so taken by the city that he decided to remain there. He rented the Old Spanish Kitchen, a small, two-room building located behind the Fatio House. The Record reported that Galpin was "so enthusiastic in his praise of St. Augustine's many 'paintable' subjects that he is writing to his friends in Chicago, telling them what they are missing."[28]

On June 5 the Arts Club decided to incorporate as a nonprofit organization, and appointed member Judge John P. Baker to supervise the task. Eleven members, including the printmaker and craftsperson Celia Gregor Reid (1895-1956), attended the opening exhibition of the Jacksonville Fine Arts Club. Reid, who had moved to St. Augustine in 1926 and joined the Galleon Club in 1927, became one of the Arts Club's most dedicated supporters. The members resolved that "an exhibition of the year's sketch class be given in the near future when the club was able to afford this along with an opening tea and invitations be extended [to] the city and county officials personally so that they might see what progress the club is making."[29] At the August meeting Muller-Uri reported that she had invited the Little Theater Group rejoin the Arts Club, and at the following month's meeting she announced that efforts had been made to persuade the musicians of the St. Cecilia Club and a group of writers to join.[30]

In November the Arts Club president wrote a letter to the mayor and city commissioners "in acknowledgment and appreciation of the way you have assisted us in carrying on a work to our mutual benefit," and provided a summary of the past season's activities. She reported that the club had held six free exhibitions "of both local and nationally known talent," presented three free illustrated lectures that had been supplied by the American Federation of the Arts, sent out nearly 7,000 folders that advertised St. Augustine, sponsored reciprocal sketching visits and picnics with artists from Jacksonville and Daytona Beach, conducted regular summer and winter sketch classes, participated in the State Exhibitions in Sarasota and St. Petersburg, and beautified its Davenport Park clubhouse.[31]

Phinney spoke before the Kiwanis Club in November about "the possibilities of making the Ancient City the art center of the South." He observed that "St. Petersburg, Miami and other prominent tourist cities have their shuffle-board courts, their horse-shoe pitching, etc., but none has the rich historical significance, the quaint and picturesque buildings and scenes that make the Ancient City appeal so greatly to the artistic, that would form the art center of the South here," and urged those present to support the Arts Club.[32] Later in the month the Provincetown portraitist Robert Bruce Rogers (b, 1907) visited St. Augustine with his wife.[33] The Record quoted their opinion that the city "has the possibilities of becoming a substantial center of American art for the American artists are tending to break away from the great industrial centers, where their works become as highly artificialized as their subject matter, as well as from the bondage of continental traditions:"[34] At this early stage of the Arts Club's development the conservative members favored impressionism, academic figure subjects, and regionalism, and had no interest in European avant-garde styles.

In January 1934 the Woman's Exchange invited the Arts Club to hold an "Art Mart" or outdoor exhibition in the patio of the Old Spanish Treasury on St. George Street. Participants included visiting artists such as Rogers (who entertained the public with his rapid portrait sketches), Marguerita Phillips (1895-1978) of Germantown, Pennsylvania, Meurer and Vogt from Cincinnati, and locals such as Hamilton, Muller-Uri, Phinney, Rahner, and Reid. Artists from other Florida art organizations, such as the Daytona Beach Art League, the Gainesville Association of Fine Arts, and the Fine Arts Society of Jacksonville, also participated.[35] Such outdoor shows became a regular feature of the Arts Club's annual exhibition schedule because they were popular among both tourists and residents. In February Reid gave a talk on "Art as a Hobby" before the Business and Professional Women's Forum. She emphasized "the good that has been done for St. Augustine through the St. Augustine Arts Club, which has been responsible for bringing many artists here, and for keeping them busy, interested and happy:" Like Phinney, Reid stressed the recreational aspect of art by discussing "the pleasure to the individual that comes with the development of even small talent, with possibly something really big developing as one progresses:[36]

The Arts Club exhibited a selection of forty-six works from the seventh annual circuit exhibition of the Florida Federation of Arts at its Davenport Park gallery in March, and proudly announced that seven of these pictures were by its members, including Reid's prize-winning woodcut of Aviles Street. The Record observed that "the club is doing splendid work here not only in developing art appreciation but advertising the city's attractions as well." After a banker purchased two of Hamilton's watercolors of local scenes, the author made a statement that would be repeated frequently in the future: "Every picture of St. Augustine that goes north tells a pleasant story of this city to everyone who sees it."[37] Although resident artists appreciated the city's picturesque ambience for aesthetic reasons, they also considered the practical value of such representations. Many, if not most, of the numerous landscapes and cityscapes of St. Augustine that they produced over the years were calculated to appeal to the tourist market.

In April the Chicago artist and lecturer Ellis Prentice Cole (b. 1862) made his second visit to St. Augustine.[38] While most people compared the city to Provincetown and Rockport, Cole opined that it had the potential to achieve the status of Taos, New Mexico. He concluded that St. Augustine possessed "everything necessary, with its climate, its history and picturesqueness, to make it the outstanding art center of this section and only lacks the advertising and permanent exhibits to make it a mecca for those who paint and those who by their purchases would make the thing possible."[39] The club would soon take measures to remedy these deficiencies.

Sometime in early 1934 the chamber of commerce secretary W. J. Cozens informed the Arts Club that his organization "went on record in a recent meeting to urge the Junior Chamber of Commerce to use all the names of artists furnished by the Arts Club in the Summer Advertising Campaign this summer." He added that "if you will give us the names of the artists living in the summer in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and Ogunquit, Maine, we will be glad to contact them by sending a personal invitation to spend their winters in this attractive old city of ours."[40] St. Augustine's civic leaders systematically sought to emulate Provincetown and Rockport, and attracted many artists from those art colonies to the Ancient City.[41] In September Herbert J, Usina, owner of Usina's Book Store, volunteered to allow the club to use his building on Bay Street (it had formerly been occupied by Florida Motor Lines) and the triangular park in front of it for exhibitions, but the offer was declined for unknown reasons.

At a special meeting in October the group officially changed its name from the St. Augustine Arts Club to the Arts Club of St. Augustine. Judge Barker explained that the new name "would lend more freedom in the use of the title. For instance, if another well known organization decided to become a member of our organization, as a body, they could do so without the necessity of changing the name of their society or club, or losing their identity, but, at the same time would be affiliated with The Arts Club of St.. Augustine, and would also become known under that name:"[42] Several days later, on October 27, 1934, the club was formally incorporated with the avowed objective "to develop, advance, and promote art and its appreciation and to hold exhibitions of works of art."[43]

Mercedes Powell was elected president of the Arts Club in November, and the club made preliminary arrangements to invite the Florida Federation of Arts to hold its 1935 annual meeting in St. Augustine. Letters of appreciation were sent to Hawkins for the "splendid publicity you have given all articles submitted to your paper," and to City Manager Eugene Masters for "the many courtesies you have extended us at all times."[44] Members of the Tourist Club of St. Augustine were invited to participate in the club's activities.[45] The Arts Club was well represented at the eighth annual exhibition of the Florida Federation of Arts, held in Jacksonville, and Vogt and Muller-Uri received awards.

As the Great Depression ended and the economy improved, the Arts Club gained some talented and enthusiastic members. Among the first to arrive were Tod Lindenmuth (1885-1976) and his wife Elizabeth Boardman Warren (1886-1980, known professionally as E. B. Warren), then both prominent figures in Provincetown, who visited St. Augustine late in 1934. The couple wintered in the city on a regular basis until they bought a house there in 1940 and became residents. Although Lindenmuth and Warren were basically traditional artists, they were sympathetic to modern styles. Over the years they encouraged many of their progressive colleagues from Provincetown to visit St. Augustine, and some of them contributed substantially to the Arts Club exhibitions.

In January 1935 the impressionist painter and instructor Walter W. Thompson (1882-1948) visited St. Augustine, and the Arts Club held an exhibition of his work.[46] Shortly thereafter the now obscure portraitist Mrs. Kenneth Brown Ransley arrived in town and took a studio on Granada Street. The Record informed pet lovers that she had "some splendid cat and dog portraits to show, done in her original and striking manner," and that she had praised "the club headquarters, and the charming, friendly atmosphere prevailing:"[47] In February the club held its first exhibition of sculpture, which consisted of a group of portraits by Lazzari.[48] That month the Record drew attention to the Arts Club's "marked expansion over any previous year as to membership, classes of work and recognition gained." The article noted that "artists from all over the country have been running to St. Augustine in the last few years. This year there are more of these welcome visitors than before who are busily engaged in catching the many beautiful scenes in and around St. Augustine in oils and water colors."[49]

The Writers' Group of the Arts Club was formed in May. The Record stated that the event was the "logical outcome in a city so rich in both writers and material as St. Augustine."[50] In January of the following year the group published the first issue of a literary magazine called Inklings. By this time St. Augustine's reputation as an art colony had spread throughout the country. At a meeting in June Reid reported that a Mrs. Raab, the author of a column in the Indianapolis Star, called "The Hoosier Listing Post," "had written a very fine article concerning this club and its work."[51]

In July, acting on the request of the city manager, the club voted to participate in a city beautification and clean-up campaign sponsored by municipal authorities. The Arts Club members began to think about finding a more central location. In September they leased the Old Spanish Kitchen behind the Fatio House from Judge David R. Dunham for $10 per month. They enjoyed a pleasant house-warming party there, but soon voted that the Kitchen be given up until a later date in the season when it seemed more advantageous to the club, considering its present financial condition."[52] In October the Arts Club hosted the Water Color and Graphic Arts Exhibition, a traveling show that had been organized by the Southern States Art League in New Orleans and had been shown the past April in Nashville, Tennessee.

Phinney was elected president of the Arts Club for the 1935-1936 season at the annual election on November 7. In December he sought to develop a permanent collection and requested that "each member seriously consider preparing in his best efforts, for the club's walls, to belong to the club, and only to be removed on the condition that it be replaced with a newer picture."[53] In a meeting on January 1936, Phinney informed the members that "the impression being generally received through various sources that The Arts Club was not particularly interested in retaining its present location, was coming close to causing the present location to be taken away from the club." The members agreed that "such rumors should be emphatically stifled."[54] In February the portraitist Mary F. R. Clay (d. 1939)[55] was invited to attend the sketch class and offer criticism.[56] Shortly thereafter its members held an outdoor exhibition in the plaza.

At the March meeting Reid asked the club's artists to paint scenery for a play that the Writers' Group was about to perform, and to contribute decorations for the upcoming "Day in Spain" festival on Aviles Street that was being sponsored by the Federated Garden Circles of St. Augustine. From that time on club members, especially Reid, played significant roles in contributing co the various elaborate street festivals that were popular events in the city during the late 1930s and 1940s.[57] In August the newly formed Camera Group held its first meeting, but two months later Rahner reported that "while quite a bit of interest had been evidenced during most of the summer ... this group was not progressing as well as it should."[58]

By 1936 the Arts Club was firmly established as the nucleus of St. Augustine's cultural life. That year a guidebook to Florida described the Davenport Park clubhouse and reported on the group's activities: "In this building, provided by the city, artists, writers, actors and musicians may meet socially and exhibit. Visiting artists are always welcome at the regular twice-weekly Sketch Classes as well as on special occasions. Rich in tradition, in romantic atmosphere and scenic subjects, St. Augustine offers an appealing field both to the artist and the writer. Many studios are dotted about the town, and colorful Art Marts are held in the Plaza at intervals during the winter."[59] The guide was illustrated with sketches by the popular local artist Robert H. Hamilton (dates unknown),[60] and woodcuts by Reid.

At the annual meeting on November 3 Reid was elected to serve as president of the Arts Club for the 1936-1937 season, She directed the club's efforts to invite the Florida Federation of Arts to hold its 1937 annual meeting in St. Augustine, an objective that was supported by Mayor Walter B. Fraser and the chamber of commerce. Another significant event took place in October, when the Arts Club adopted a resolution to make a public avowal of support for the St. Augustine Restoration Program. This was the group's first official show of interest in an issue that became one of its major concerns. The Florida legislature passed a special act that enabled St. Johns County to take measures to protect its historic sites, and appropriated $50,000 for the task. On November 14, as a climax to the annual celebration of National Art Week, the club held a particularly well-attended outdoor art fair on Aviles Street.

In January 1937 the public was invited to a special "Open House" and tea to meet Dr. Vernon Chatelain, director of the St. Augustine Historical Survey Project (which was sponsored by the Carnegie Institution), and the photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston (1864-1952) (fig. 8), who was taking pictures to document the city's historic buildings. She observed that her work was particularly valuable "inasmuch as St. Augustine occupies a unique position among the cities of the nation."[61] Almost every artist who visited the city painted these old, picturesque structures, and the Arts Club was deeply concerned about the efforts being taken to preserve them.

The first exhibition of the year was unusually well attended, and the Record reported that some visitors were overheard saying that the event "was far better than some they had seen in other cities which have the reputation for doing those things exceedingly well." Almost all of the paintings in the exhibition represented St. Augustine subjects that showed "how varied is the appeal that this Oldest City has for artists." The writer continued:

The ocean, sand dunes, soaring sea gulls, and picturesque shrimp boats, added to the quaint Spanish atmosphere, given by old coquina walls, balconied houses, and ancient fortifications, seem to make this city an ideal setting for an artists' colony. That it is growing in favor along this line, mainly through the constant efforts of the St. Augustine Arts Club, is shown in the fact that there are now in the city about 25 artists from other places. "Next year," said one of the enthusiastic visiting artists,"there will be 50. We have fallen under the spell of St. Augustine, and shall continue to spread the good word abroad."[62]

The Arts Club continued its pattern of steady growth, and artists flocked to the city.

A special "Restoration Issue" of the St. Augustine Record (fig. 9) was issued on July 4 for the express purpose of arousing public interest in the recently initiated program for the preservation and restoration of St. Augustine's historic areas, The Arts Club's participation in the effort was considered vital, and an article in the paper stated that the club "has proved its worth to this community in numberless ways, and during the past several years has been instrumental in attracting scores of new people here, among them artists of note from the summer art centers of Provincetown, Mass., and Ogunquit, Maine." The Arts Club sent copies of the "Restoration Issue" to art colonies throughout the country in order to advertise St. Augustine as a "veritable artists' paradise."[63]

Bernice Johnston Erwin (d. 1992) was elected president for the 1937-1938 season at the annual meeting on November 2.[64] The Florida Federation of Arts had accepted the club's invitation to hold both its tenth annual convention and eleventh annual exhibition in St. Augustine (fig, 10), and the events were scheduled for the first week of December. Reid served as the general convention chairman, and the Hotel Marion (owned by Muller-Uri's parents) served as the official convention hotel. St. Augustine was crowded with visitors, and the event was a windfall for the local economy that made a positive impression on the business community. The Arts Club's civic-minded members had carefully orchestrated the timing of the meeting and exhibition; earlier in the year Phinney had suggested that the events be held "during the height of the tourist season, or not at all."[65] Later in the month Claire Luckner, who had recently been appointed the Arts Club's chairman of publicity, began to write a regular column in the Record in which she provided information on the group's activities and brief biographical sketches of its members. Her first article was devoted to the painter Anna Louise Thorne (b. 1866) of Toledo, Ohio, who had recently opened a studio on Aviles Street.[66]

The Arts Club saw unprecedented growth in 1938. In January Luckner described taking a walk down Aviles Street, which she called the "Mecca for local and visiting artists."[67] and finding numerous artists busily preparing for the first exhibition of the year. The club's administration decided that there were now so many talented artists in St. Augustine that there was no sense in holding conventional solo exhibitions: "Instead, an opportunity is given to both the local and out-of-town artist to enter his works, creating an altogether pleasing and representative showing."[68] In addition to these large exhibitions at the Davenport Park clubhouse, the club held outdoor exhibitions in the plaza that were more accessible to tourists and passers-by.

Benoni Lockwood (d. 1952), a New York City business executive who was a winter resident of St. Augustine, was elected president for the 1938-1939 season at the annual meeting on December 14.[69] His exceptional competence is evident in his being reelected to the position six times; he resigned in October 1946 only because of ill health. The members decided to hold all-day outdoor exhibitions and open houses every Saturday for the artists on Aviles Street. That month five artists from Provincetown joined the Arts Club, including the well-known painter and proponent of modernism Ross Moffett (1888-1971) and his wife, the illustrator Dorothy Lake Gregory (b. 1893).[70] Club members decided to sponsor a concert by the noted opera singer Louise Homer and two of her pupils, but later dropped the matter when she unexpectedly left town and was unavailable to plan the event.

By 1939 the Arts Club members had successfully laid the foundations for St. Augustine to become Florida's most popular art colony. In June the Record quoted Muller-Uri's statement that "the appeal of the Old World's atmosphere of the Oldest City and the fame of the equable year-round climate of the vicinity, has spread out over the country to artists from many different points, until at the height of the season here the number of artists in the city adds up to nearly 200."[71] The guidebook to Florida that had been prepared by the Federal Writers' Project of the Work Projects Administration of the State of Florida was published in 1939. Four years earlier the state director of the project had solicited the Arts Club's assistance in preparing the text, so the members found themselves in the advantageous position of being able to advertise St. Augustine's cultural amenities.[72] The unidentified author summed up his discussion of the fine arts in Florida by writing that many of the country's leading artists frequented the state's resorts, and that St Augustine was "the most Bohemian of these colonies: Aviles Street, one of the original narrow lanes of the old city with antique stucco houses, has been largely taken over by studios, and has become a tourists' attraction. Here the artists display their work on outside walls and do much painting in the open."[73]

At the center of this activity was the Artist's Studio Building at 29 Aviles Street, A brochure printed in 1939 (fig. 11) advertised that some of St. Augustine's most prominent resident artists and Arts Club members had studios there: the Cincinnati artist Victor Casenelli (1868-1961) (fig. 12), the New Orleans illustrator and graphic artist George Frederick Castleden (1869-1945) (fig. 13), Marie R. Garesché (b. 1864), the Provincetown artist and "dean of Cape Cod painters" John Hare (1909-1978), amateur painter and Nina Hawkins's sister-in-law Catherine Hawkins (1899-1977), amateur artist Marjorie Pangburn (1915-1985), Pfeiffer, and the Provincetown artist Donald Frederick Witherstine (1896-1961).[74] In January 1939 Luckner described how on Saturday night Aviles Street "was alive with eager connoisseurs of fine art, both from this city and out-of-town, as well as many enthralled tourists who could not help but exclaim: 'How different!' 'How interesting!' 'Impossible that we can be in modern hurrying America -- on this street with its quaint, peaceful charm found only in Europe.'"[75] The Arts Club's advocates increasingly drew attention to the importance of St. Augustine's European ambience as one of its major assets, In another article Luckner quoted Hungarian-born artist Lazlo (or Ladislas) de Nagy (1906-1944):"the European atmosphere [is] so strong here, then it's good for the eyes to see all this green and colorful flowers after the colorless snow and bare gray trees up north."[76]

When the Arts Club held its first arts and crafts exhibition in February, Luckner drew attention to the stylistic diversity of the paintings and prints: "There were types to suit every taste, some in the academic style, others in a more modern trend, some leaning toward the whimsical; others Van Gogh-ish and 'a la Renoir.'"[77] The noted Provincetown abstract figural painter and graphic artist Oliver Newberry Chaffee (1881-1944) spent some time in St. Augustine that season, and the Record quoted his favorable comments on Florida's climate.[78] The modernists were beginning to make their presence felt. That month the more conservative members of the sketch class were delighted to have the opportunity to draw Chief Bright Fire Thunder Sky, a Mohawk chief who was a well-known professional model in New York.

By March the Arts Club administration realized that the group had outgrown the Davenport Park clubhouse. They began to consider purchasing property on which to build a permanent headquarters, but were unable to find a satisfactory site. When the season resumed in the autumn, many of the regulars returned to St. Augustine, and there were several new visitors as well, including the Swedish-born landscape painter Knute Heldner (1886-1954).[79] The club started to think about leasing space in Flagler's Hotel Alcazar (fig. 14), a building in the Spanish Renaissance style that had been designed by the New York architects John M. Carrère and Thomas Hastings and built in 1887. The Alcazar had been closed during the Great Depression and had recently been leased to the city.[80]

About the author

At the time of publication of the essay in Lost Colony: The Artists of St. Augustine, 1930-1950, the following biographical notes for the author were included in the book:

Robert Wilson Torchia received his Ph.D. in art history from the University of Pennsylvania in 1989. He is a specialist in American art of the late eighteenth through the early twentieth centuries, and has a strong secondary field in oriental rugs and textiles. He is the author of John Neagle: Philadelphia Portrait Painter (1989), The Smiths: A Family of Philadelphia Artists (1998), and American Paintings of the Nineteenth Century, Volume II, The Collection of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue (1998), and a number of articles on such noted American artists as Thomas Eakins, Joshua Johnson, and Thomas Sully. He is particularly interested in American art in Florida, and has written A Florida Legacy: Thomas Moran's Ponce de Leon in Florida (1998), and Ernst Conrad Kasten: Palatka Expressionist (1999).


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