The Archaeology of our Faith: Strata #20
Born in Iowa, raised in Newton, Kansas where he had his early education in public schools and Bethel College. His family was deeply rooted in the Mennonite world of the late 1800s in the Newton area. Krehbiel’s father was a carriage maker and one of the founders of Bethel College. To his father’s dismay, all Albert wanted to do was draw and paint. But then as a practical businessman, he had Albert paint the ornamental flourishes on the high-end carriages for notables of the day.
When Frederick Richardson, president of the Art Institute of Chicago, saw Krehbiel’s work he offered him a five year scholarship to complete his education and spend a subsequent year as a studio assistant in painting. After completing those five years, Albert received a fellowship to study at the Academie Julian in Paris. At the Academie Julian he developed close connections with artists of the time including Auguste Rodin, Andre Gide and Jean-Paul Laurens. During his time at the Academie Julian, he won a record number of four gold medals for his impressionistic paintings. And of his works was selected for permanent exhibition at the Academie. Just before his return to the United States in 1905 he also won the Prix de Rome award which was the highest European honor bestowed upon a student painter.
After his return to America, he would join the faculty at the Art Institute in Chicago where he taught painting until his final years. But his energies were not limited to the Art Institute. He devoted four years to painting the murals in the State of Illinois Supreme Court Building in Springfield, Illinois. After those murals were complete he returned full time to impressionist painting. Later he would become the primary interior designer for the immigrant architect Mies van der Rohe for his early buildings, including innovative S. R. Crown Hall on the Illinois Institute of Technology campus in Chicago.
His wife, Dulah Marie Evans, was also an artist who taught part time at the Art Institute. Together they spent summers in Saugatuck, Michigan where they painted landscapes and began the Summer Art Institute which is still functioning today. And of course, Chicago weather got the best of them and early in their marriage spent their summers in Santa Fe, New Mexico where they worked with and exhibited art with many other noted artists. After their son Evan was born, they spent summers teaching art in Saugatuck, Michigan.
Krehbeil’s work is in many private collections today and also in major museums. The museums, and I will only list a few, include The Louvre in Paris, The Smithsonian, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the British Museum in London, San Francisco Museum of Art, University of Michigan Art Museum and of course the Art Institute in in Chicago. He completed close to thirty paintings a year during this forty five years as a professional artist. And please note, he was also teaching full time during those same decades.
Albert’s professional interests and career took him far away from his Mennonite roots in Kansas, but whenever he and his family made their annual pilgrimage to New Mexico, they would visit relatives in Kansas and often provide a guest lectures on art at Bethel College. He remained close to his brothers and many of their letters have been preserved in the Bethel Archives.
Finally, Albert Krehbiel was a good writer and penned this oft quoted statement, "People cannot stop growing, nor can they continue making new things merely in imitation of what has been done. Each age must have its new tempo, its own plan and pattern, and must express itself soundly in the terms of that pattern and in the measure of that tempo."
Albert Krehbiel retired on June 29, 1945 at age 72 and later that same day, as he and his son were packing for a trip visit relatives in Newton, Kansas, he passed away.
Reader: Surely the Lord would say of Albert Krehbiel
All: Well done, thou good and faithful servant.
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The Living Mirror: Archaeology of Our Faith