Grand detour art colony


In 1898 Chicagoan Wallace Heckman invited Lorado Taft, Charles Francis Browne, Ralph Clarkson, Hamlin Garland, Henry Blake Fuller and other artists to establish a summer retreat and workplace on his Oregon property overlooking the Rock River now known as Taft Campus at Lowden State Park. The colony was named Eagle???s Nest Association for the ancient gnarled cedar tree which stood for many years on the bluff. The Oregon public library, designed by two of the architects from the colony, houses a collection of art done by various Eagle???s Nest members.The Grand Detour artist colony developed as an offshoot of the Eagle???s Nest artist camp when member and landscape painter Charles Francis Browne began bringing students to Grand Detour where they spent several weeks each summer painting and sketching in the village and along the Rock River. Grand Detour was a quiet, peaceful and picturesque village at this time. There were two hotels, the Sheffield and the Colonial Inn, which provided room and board at a reasonable cost. Vacant houses were used for storing art supplies and paintings. Most of the artists in the Grand Detour art group were summer residents, but after the Sheffield Hotel burned down in 1928, several built homes on the west side of the village along the Rock River. Six artists were most prominent in this group, with John Nolf as their unofficial leader. A short distance from Nolf???s house was that of Holger Jensen, a year-round resident. Oscar Soellner built a small cottage and spent summers here with his family. Water color painter Fred Garner lived in the stately old house built in the early days of Grand Detour by Willard House. Garner was most active in the day-to-day life of the village. Mattie Lietz stayed at the Colonial Inn. Dixon native Agnes Ferguson built her house on a bluff with an imposing view of the river and was the last member of the art group when she died in 1985. Beside painting and holding exhibitions, most of these artists supplemented their income by conducting art classes and some of the later local artists took lessons from members of the Grand Detour art group. Among these were Eunice Schuler, Hazel Howell and Charles Kested. The heyday of the Grand Detour art group was the 1920s through the 1940s. By the mid-1950s a majority of the artists had died, but their paintings, especially of local scenes, can be found in many area homes and the Loveland Community House in Dixon. Written by Duane Paulsen, historian of the Grand Detour Art Colony.