The Wessel House Studio & Study Center
How it all began …
In the mid 90s, Carl was the curator of the Cincinnati Art Club art and historical memorabilia collection. In addition to fine late 19th and early 20th century paintings, the CAC had a stack of old art club membership rosters. Intrigued with historic artist’s studios, Carl would occasionally drive past notable club members addresses, to see if they might have built a studio or added a north skylight or window to their home.
One evening, while reading through an old club membership roster, Carl saw the address of longtime Cincinnati artists Herman (1878-1969) and Bessie Wessel (1889-1973). The next day, he went to the location near Eden Park and found an 1880s Queen Anne style house in the midst of renovation. Peering in the tall, wide bank of front windows, he could see directly through the living and dining rooms to a large, vaulted north-lit studio in the back. Instantly smitten, he asked the workmen on site for a tour. Everything about the house was exceptional, and when Carl was shown Frank Duveneck’s (1848-1919) easel in an upstairs bedroom, he couldn’t believe his eyes. Soon the wheels were set in motion that eventually led to Carl and his wife Carol owning the storied old artists’ home and studio.
There is a special vibe one feels from visiting an historic artist’s home. The nearly palpable history echoes from the very walls of the place, and memories of the shop talk, artist parties and visitors hosted by Herman and Bessie from 1927-1973 still resonate. And, then there is the light; not just from the studio’s tall north facing windows, but all over the house. Additional research into the history of the house showed the old Queen Anne was brought into the 1920s with a renovation that added additional windows and considerably more natural day light. The 18’ x 24’ studio was then added in 1931, inspired by painting studios the Wessel saw in their European travels.
While it’s an absolute joy to live and work in this wonderful, light-filled home, it’s also an important responsibility. Not many historic artist’s homes of this kind still exist, and as old homes do, they require much energy and investment to maintain. Carl’s studio is in the home, and it’s where most of his clients come to pose for their portraits. A large living room and dining room serve as a gallery, highlighting his paintings and a few other works by painters and sculptors from Cincinnati’s “Golden Age”.
Perhaps most satisfying is the enduring friendship developed with Helen Wessel, wife of the artists’ son Bob. After Bob passed in 1997, this friendship with Helen deepened, and her patronage and passion for maintaining the Wessel heritage made it possible to eventually own the family home. In the end, Carl and Carol are but caretakers of this very special artists’ home and studio. As such, they are planning ahead that the house continue on into the future as a place artists and art lovers can enjoy. Long term, a designation as an “historic artists‘ house and studio museum” seems fitting, with a working study center built around a collection of drawings, mural studies and other works represented in the Wessel House collection