Providence Art Club

Artists on the Hill

Providence’s tightly-knit community of artists and collectors created the Providence Art Club to congregate, create, and display art. It is the second oldest art club in the country after the Salmagundi Club in New York City. The westernmost of the club’s four buildings is the Fleur-de-Lys Studio (1885), built by Sydney Burleigh as workspace for himself and fellow club artists. Designated a National Historic Landmark, the studio is a masterpiece of Arts and Crafts architecture with finely rendered detail. On the street level corner is inscribed the phrase “Fair among the Fairest.” Not everybody appreciated this building; H.P. Lovecraft found it so revolting that he set his horror story “The Call of Cthulhu” (1926) there.

Among the founders of the Providence Art Club was Edward Mitchell Bannister, a celebrated African American landscape painter. Bannister’s work Under The Oaks earned him first prize at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876, although he had to overcome prevalent racist attitudes. Bannister discovered from a newspaper that he had won the prize, and when he arrived at the gallery to claim it, the clerk demanded to know “what it was to [him].” Bannister later wrote: “In an instant, my blood was up: the looks that passed between him and others in the room were unmistakable. I was not an artist to them, simply an inquisitive colored man; controlling myself, I said deliberately, ‘I am interested in the report that Under The Oaks has received; I painted the picture.’ An explosion could not have made a more marked impression. Without hesitation he apologized, and soon everyone in the room was bowing and scraping to me.”

Bannister’s wife, Christiana Bannister, is historically significant in her own right. An entrepreneur and self-proclaimed “hair doctress,” Bannister ran successful hair salons in Boston and downtown Providence which allowed her husband to pursue his art career.

Images

A Historic View of Thomas Street, the Providence Art Club, and the Seril Dodge House

A Historic View of Thomas Street, the Providence Art Club, and the Seril Dodge House

Dodge began construction on this house in 1786. He moved to Providence from Hartford where he had apprenticed under Thomas Harland, a clock-making expert. The house was raised one story in 1906 to allow for commercial use as Adams Market. View File Details Page

Fleur-de-Lys Studio and The Providence Art Club

Fleur-de-Lys Studio and The Providence Art Club

The Providence Art Club currently offers exhibits, programs, and art classes to its members and guests. The Club remains faithful to its founders' intention of fostering camaraderie in the artist community by offering a gathering space for artists and patrons. View File Details Page

Art Club Scrapbook

Art Club Scrapbook

Seril Dodge, famed watchmaker, clockmaker, and silversmith, built this house in 1790 and sold it to Moses Brown in 1799 (the Art Club leased the property in 1886, shortly after its founding). Both Seril Dodge and Moses Brown were crucial players in American industry: Dodge and his brother Nehemiah invented a gold-plate method that launched the costume jewelry industry; Moses Brown founded Samuel Slater's mill. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Elyssa Tardif, “Providence Art Club,” Rhode Tour, accessed May 27, 2017, http://rhodetour.org/items/show/184.
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