How The Toledo Club accumulated most of its paintings and other works of art leaves more to conjecture than recorded fact because little was documented prior to the 1970’s. However, we do know some interesting things about at least a part of the collection.
The Club’s early collection includes several Edmund Osthaus painting of dogs. In the early 1900’s, Edmund Osthaus (1858-1928), the noted Toledo painter of hunting dogs and a member of the Club, offered to sell the club one of his paintings for $1500. The trustees gave due consideration to the proposal and the minutes of the Club show that they made the following counter proposition: “Moved that the offer of Osthaus to sell his picture to the Club for $1500 be accepted subject to the following conditions: (1) that Osthaus shall make a contribution of $100; (2) that Osthaus shall accept in part payment prepayment of dues at the rate of $80 per year for five years; (3) payment of the balance of the purchase price in four annual installments of $250 each.” This resolution passed and this painting has been hanging ever since.
We guess that many of the other paintings were probably given to the Club by some of its early generous members, especially those who thought it would be nice to have their likeness displayed.
We know that George Stevens, the first Director of the Toledo Museum of Art, was very helpful in getting art donated to the Club, as well as lending some of the museum’s art to the Club. In the early days, it was custom of the museum to loan paintings to various local businesses and institutions, but later this practice was discontinued.
Perhaps our most controversial painting is “Lady With Red Rose” by H. Rondel (born 1857, Avignon, died 1919, Paris) which hangs at the entrance to the Main Dining Room. Occasionally, there is a comment or letter on the appropriateness of this very decorative picture. Despite these comments it is nevertheless artworthy enough to be a part of the Club’s collection.
Without question the better of the Club’s collection of pictures would include “the Rocky Coast” by John Ross Key (1837-1920) of Baltimore; “Winter Rigor” by John Carlson; “Death Valley at Sunrise” by Ferdinand Harvey Lungren (born 1857, Toledo); The Battle of Lake Erie” by Carleton Chapman (Born 1860, New London, Ohio, died 1926); Winter Scene” by Henry Morviller; “Seascape” by Thomas Parkhurst; “Harlem River Bridge” by Max Kuene; and “Street Scene in Winter” by William Smith of Toledo.
The romantic and decorative paintings in The Red Room should not be overlooked. “Girl in Red” attributed to Walter Dean Goldbeck (American, 1882-1925) and “When Sylvia Walks” by Louis Betts (American, 1873-1961) offer dramatic compliment to the special ambiance of this room, and are fine paintings.
During the end of the 1900’s, we have been fortunate to be able to add substantially to our collection with the purchase of some very nice paintings and other art projects. An acquisition of particular interest and historical significance is “Grandmother’s First Visit” by Wilder Darling, (born 1854, Sandusky, Ohio died 1933, Toledo) a professional artist who came to Toledo in 1902 and had a studio for many years at 213 ½ Erie Street. The painting was acquired by the Club in 1984 from the University of Toledo Library, which had discovered it in its stacks along with other older paintings badly in need of repair. The painting was dark and dingy and was sent to the Detroit Institute of Arts for extensive restoration. Through X-ray to determine what might be under the painting, we learned that Darling had added a section to the painting on the right side of the original canvas to fit a frame he wanted to use.
To our delight we discovered that “Grandmother’s First Visit” had some lovely qualities about it and that it fit well into the décor of the Club. We also discovered to our surprise that this painting was exhibited at the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris, the same year that the Eiffel Tower was completed and the same year that The Toledo Club was incorporated. In 1989, the Pennsylvania Academy of The Fine Arts contacted the Club to ask if this painting could be used in an important traveling exhibit of American artists whose paintings were shown at the World’s Fair in 1889. Paintings by Mr. Darling are in the Toledo Museum of Art permanent collection and in collections throughout the world.
The Club also has some fine examples of Audubon prints and contemporary lithographs by Joseph Raffael. The Red Room has a lighted cabinet with a collection of glass, including a sampling of signed Libbey Glass Company wheel engraved cut glass (c. 1880-1905), a late 1940’s Edwin Fuerst vase made by Libbey and several late 1900’s glass sculptures by Toledo glass artist, Dominic Labino (1910-1987).
While the membership and décor may change in the years to come the art will remain, providing a constant and graceful addition to the special charm of The Toledo Club.