The St Louis Historical Art Project seeks to increase the awareness of the rich artistic heritage of the city of St Louis by providing a history of individual artists who lived here, as well as groups and organizations that were formed by these artists, and finally, the institutions located within the city where the artists were educated and exhibited. Our area of focus is the late 19th century through the mid 20th century. This site is not intended for contemporary artists and artwork created after 1970.
St Louis Historical Art Project encourages everyone to use our site and content freely. We would also love to hear from you. Let us know about any information you might have concerning these artists. If you have biographical information or images of the artists or their artwork; if you own an artwork by a St Louis artist and would like to include an image of it in our file; or even anecdotal information is sometimes helpful in substantiating other facts about an artist. It’s like a giant puzzle we can all help solve together!
The St Louis Historical Art Project was developed and maintained by Thom Pegg, owner of Tyler Fine Art in St Louis. Mr. Pegg is a recognized authority on historical St Louis artists. Mr. Pegg’s statement:
When I was in high school and college back in the early 1980s, I worked for a couple of local galleries who specialized in historical St Louis art. I started to get to know the artist’s names and their work—as well as the local collectors of the time. After college, when I opened a gallery of my own, I specialized in work done by these artists—Frank Nuderscher, Kathryn Cherry, Frederick Sylvester-- to name a few. I started selling art to the collectors I had first met in high school, and by my relationships with them, I became pretty knowledgeable about the work by these artists. Sadly, thirty years later, there are only a handful of new collectors of St Louis art, and the familiarity of the rich heritage of the St Louis art scene throughout the 20th century has been almost lost entirely. I attended Washington University, which was known as the St Louis School of Fine Art (within that discipline) in the early 20th century. I would venture to say that the majority of the students —even art students—currently enrolled there have little or no familiarity with the history of art in St Louis specifically. What’s worse is that this extends to the entire population of St Louis under 50 years old. I complained about this for years, but eventually, I had to admit that I shouldn’t expect anyone to be interested if the information isn’t even available to them.
That is part of my goal of the St Louis Historical Art Project . Make this information available.
I was in my teens and twenties going to school and honestly, I wasn’t all that interested either. I was studying Political Science and English Literature —not art—but the more I learned about it, the more interested I was. I believe this is because of the local nature of the art. When I looked at a painting done in 1920 of the Eads Bridge by Frank Nuderscher, it actually meant something to me because I knew that bridge—I had seen it myself. When I saw Kathryn Cherry’s “The Jewel Box (Forest Park)” , done around the same time, I could relate to it because I had been there myself. This initial interaction with an artist’s interpretation of a familiar scene allowed me to better understand and appreciate scenes I had never personally experienced. This, in turn , allowed me an insight to the relationship between the artist and the artwork itself. This new understanding elevated my appreciation for abstract and conceptual artwork.
Art can sometimes be intimidating for people. We do not always understand it, so we dismiss it. I believe that it’s sometimes easier to understand and appreciate art that happened in our own neighborhood, because we are familiar with the sights and sounds, etc., and by increasing our knowledge and appreciation for local historical art, we will eventually increase our understanding for all art.
Learning about historical art, is in fact, learning about history itself, and in this case, about the history of St Louis. I had a painting by a St Louis artist named Ambrosia White a few years ago. It was painted in the 1930s and was titled, “Hooverville”. The scene looked to be on the banks of the Mississippi, on the south side of what is now the MacArthur Bridge. “Hoovervilles” were shanty towns built by homeless people during the Great Depression. St Louis had one of the largest Hoovervilles in the country in 1931. By studying the painting, I learned about a historical event that was relevant both locally and nationally.
Finally, I would like to provide information on historical St Louis art to the rest of the country. Paintings by St Louis artists turn up all the time all across the country, and there are few resources by which to research these artists, other than very general reference books. The St Louis Historical Art Project will also provide information about any and all resources of which we are familiar that are relevant to the artist.