The Tyler Museum of Art
examines the late 19th Century expression of an American aesthetic with the exhibition Studiously Slangy and Bohemian, The Tile ClubArtists of Americas Aesthetic Movement from the Graham Williford Collection. The exhibition on view from December 14, 2010 through February 20, 2011 in the Museums Bell Gallery. In addition to the two rare examples of the exhibitions namesake tiles, over 80 paintings, sculptures and prints from the Tile Club artists are on view. The exhibition is organized by the Tyler Museum of Art.
Tile Club members were arguably the first group of artists who succeeded in creating a cult of the artists against the backdrop of Americas Aesthetic Movement during the late 19th Century. Their group, based in New York, was primarily made up of artists but also included other professionals such as an architect and two writers. This motley crew may be best described in the words of the artists themselves, studiously slangy and bohemian, and with a tongue-in-cheek pronouncement of Let us be decorative! the small group gathered together at regular soirées to paint decorative tiles.
Although the Tile Clubs professed intent was to paint tiles, they soon abandoned that pursuit for other art-related projects. The group organized plein-air, or outdoor, sketching trips to Long Island and up the Hudson River. The artists provided illustrations to the travelogue written by the writers of the group, and the magazine articles captured the popular imagination of its middle class readers who must have envied this aesthetic life led by the Tile Clubs bohemian artists. The groups progressive self-promotion and public antics appealed to the countrys growing middle class and helped to cultivate among the populace an interest in the decorative arts.
The rising middle class art aficionados of the Gilded Age avidly followed the Tile Clubs deeds, which were covered in the popular publications of the last quarter of the 19th Century like Scribners Monthly and The Century Magazine. While the group as a whole did not produce any distinct artistic style, the Tile Club members were some of the most notable American artists of the period such as Edwin Austin Abbey, William Merritt Chase, Winslow Homer, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and Elihu Vedder. With additional members such as art critic Earl Shinn and journalist William Laffan, the Club successfully cultivated an atmosphere of alluring art culture during the Gilded Age.