Fritz Schlemmer was an Artist for Town, College
by Beth Swift
July 19, 2005
In the position of archivist at Wabash College, I work on a variety of projects. All are interesting and some are quite challenging and, of course, there are the projects that are simply delightful. One such project which is now underway will culminate in an exhibit this fall at the Old Jail Museum. From Sept. 10- Oct. 31 the Montgomery County Cultural Foundation will host an exhibit featuring the artwork of Crawfordsville native Ferdinand Louis Schlemmer.
Fritz, as he was known to his many friends, was born and raised in Crawfordsville and following his graduation in 1910, Schlemmer enrolled at Wabash College. His career at the college was short as he soon left to study art in Chicago. He won a competitive scholarship to the Art Institute. A Wabash publication describes his Chicago experience: "There he studied for four years and studied and taught for two more, spending three of his summers as a student under Walter Marshall Clute at the Saugatuck School of Art in Western Michigan."
In 1917, he joined the Army, was commissioned a First Lieutenant and found his way to the camouflage corps, where his artistic skills were put to use. During the Argonne campaign of World War I, he was Divisional Camouflage Officer.
Following the war, he studied art in Paris, then returned to the United States and the next three winters were spent in Florida where he had some success with "society" portraits. During the summers he studied in Provincetown under Charles W. Hawthorne at the Cape Cod School of Art.
In 1923, he returned to Crawfordsville and began his work here as a painter. In his lifetime, Schlemmer was recognized as an artist with a great deal of talent. He had 19 pieces over the course of seven years accepted into the Hoosier Salon, a prestigious competition. Schlemmer was
appointed "Artist in Residence" at Wabash College in 1939. He accepted the appointment with one stipulation, which was that he be allowed to continue to instruct all of his former students. A simple
request on the face of it, but since many of his students were female, this cased a bit of a stir. After some discussion the request was granted. As a result several females were, for a short time, art students at Wabash College.
The exhibit this fall will contain at least one of the Hoosier Salon pieces, The Rag Picker, which is owned by Wabash College. In addition several other pieces from Wabash will complement the pieces loaned by others including the Crawfordsville District Public Library, Crawfordsville Art League and Montgomery County Cultural Foundation.
If you have a piece by Schlemmer that you would like to lend for this exhibit or if you have other Schlemmer items or memories that you would like to share, please contact Tamara Hemmerlein, Montgomery County Cultural Foundation and Old Jail Museum director, at 765-362-5222 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Schlemmer show is being conducted in conjunction with the Art League's annual fall juried art exhibit in Downtown Crawfordsville. Dates of the Schlemmer exhibit are Sept. 10- Oct. 31. The Old Jail Museum is at 225 N. Washington St., Crawfordsville and is open to the public 1-4:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Admission is $3 for adults and children 12 and younger are free.
Beth Swift, archivist for Wabash College, wrote this column for the Crawfordsville Journal Review.
In photo: A Schlemmer self-portrait hangs above a fireplace in the Caleb Mills House on the Wabash Campus.