Monumental City's monument maker Sculptor: Hans Schuler left his mark on the Maryland Institute, College of Art and in many public places around his hometown.

Remember When

October 19, 1997|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

"Hans Schuler's contribution to the city which had been his home for 70 years was a double one," said The Sun in an editorial after the death of the noted sculptor and teacher in 1951.

"There are the many memorials of his design to other men whose fame is part of Baltimore's history -- Sir William Osler, Dr. J. M. T. Finney, Johns Hopkins, Sidney Lanier, Henry Walters, Gen. Sam Smith and so on. And there are the thousands of of graduates of the Maryland Institute whose course and policies he directed for more than a quarter of a century."

Known as "Baltimore's monument maker," Schuler began working in 1906 in his studio-home at 7 East Lafayette Ave., where for the next 45 years he created statuary and plaques that decorated Baltimore's parks, cemeteries, museums, churches and public buildings.

"Mr. Schuler's work is so widely represented in Baltimore that a tour to see his art would take in most sections of the city," said a 1950 Sun article.

Born in Lorraine, then part of Germany, Schuler was only 6 when his parents immigrated to Baltimore in 1881.

Why he became an artist

In a 1936 interview, he explained why he chose to become an artist. "A mother came to me not so long ago, and said, 'Little Jimmie is bad in 'rithmetic, geography, spelling and English and the only thing left for him to be is an artist.' My case was similar to little Jimmie's."

He graduated in 1894 from the Maryland Institute of Art, which in those days was housed in the Marsh Market building on East Baltimore Street. The building was destroyed in the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904.

"Mr. Schuler is ambidextrous although he started his art career ,, left-handed," said The Sun in 1946.

A teacher advised the young student "to put his left hand in a sling until he could use his right hand as easily. When he developed facility with the right hand, he took the left hand out of the sling and, thereafter, used both in drawing, painting and sculpture," reported the newspaper.

After graduating from the school, he attended the Rhinehart School of Sculpture, from which he graduated in 1898. He spent several years working and studying in Paris, where his work won critical praise and numerous medals. He returned to Baltimore after marrying the former Paula Margerethe Schneider.

"Enthusiastic over the prospects of sculpture in Baltimore, encouraged by the support given him to remain in this city rather than go to New York, where the field would be broader, and surrounded by sketches representing the moods and motives of life, Mr. Hans Schuler, the young Baltimore sculptor, can be seen working daily in his new studio," said The Sun in 1907.

In 1921, a Sun article asked: "How many Baltimoreans know that it is not necessary to leave their own city in order to see works of art from the hand of a master ?"

Noted works of Schuler's include four major pieces in the Walters Art Gallery, "Ariadne," "Aphrodite," "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" and the only portrait of Henry Walters done from life, represented in both bronze and marble.

His many outdoor works include his statue of Martin Luther on Mount Royal Avenue near Druid Hill Park and his bas-relief of Casimir Pulaski in Patterson Park.

From 1925 to 1950, Schuler was director of the Maryland Institute of Art and at the time of his appointment was hailed "as one of the foremost artists in the United States."

"Less than three months later he was the center of controversy between the local art world's modernist faction and its conservatives," The Sun reported, when Schuler refused to exhibit the work of Shelby Shackelford.

"Mr. Schuler stated his case against the modernists in these terms: 'The purpose of the Maryland Institute is to teach pure art.

" 'I, as director of the school, feel that I am responsible to the 1,500 students there. I don't care a rap what they do after they leave the school, but I am not going to allow modernists to display their meaningless stuff in the galleries of the school and counteract the true art education we are giving.

" 'What do the modernists seek to do? Cows are purple. The only explanation for this is the intense green of the grass. The cow probably ate the grass and is purple with indigestion.

" 'This is the kind of poppycock they are turning out. Such influence on students would be a great detriment.' "

Marble steps

Schuler enjoyed telling friends and students of an unusual encounter with marble after he spilled a pot of lamb stew he was taking to a sick friend. Mistaking the house and stumbling, he spilled the stew on brightly and immaculately scrubbed marble steps.

"An irate housewife, no respector of artistic reputation, stormed out with scrub brush and bucket of hot water in hand. After the chastisement, she ordered him to go to work, and the city's most famous sculptor got down on his hands and knees and began what to him was a new kind of work on marble," reported The Sun in 1951.

"It is indeed remarkable that Mr. Schuler succeeded in combining all the administrative duties of a large art school that grew steadily under his leadership with a very active career as a sculptor," said The Sun in an editorial.

"But his devotion to the institute of which he had been one of the most eminent students was no less than his devotion to the art with which he commemorated so many of the city's illustrious figures. Mr. Schuler's monuments to others constitute indeed a fitting monument to himself also, the one certainly by which he would wish to be remembered."

Pub Date: 10/19/97

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