The Daily Seen: Watercolors, Prints, and Drawings by Charles L. Marshall, Sr.
July 9, 2004 – September 26, 2004
“The Daily Seen: Watercolors, Prints, and Drawings by Charles L. Marshall,” an exhibition of watercolors, block prints, and drawings by architect and artist Charles L. Marshall (1905-1992), was on view in the Helm Gallery from July 9 to September 26. The exhibition, organized by guest curator Cori North, features material drawn from the museum’s permanent collection, including a large body of work that Charles Marshall, Jr., the artist’s son, recently donated. Also included are a number of Marshall watercolors from the collection of Maybelle Scheetz of Topeka. The Scheetz collection, which contains examples of Marshall’s work from every year of his career as an artist, is a promised gift to the museum. Scheetz served as Marshall’s personal assistant for many years.
Marshall, a native Kansan, studied architecture at K-State, earning a bachelor’s degree in architecture in 1927 and a professional degree in architecture in 1931. As a student at K-State, Marshall developed a friendship with John F. Helm, Jr., professor of painting and drawing in the architecture department. It was through Helm that Marshall was introduced to watercolor painting. The two men remained close friends throughout their lives and worked together on a variety of projects devoted to promoting the visual arts in Kansas. For example, both were actively involved with the Kansas State Federation of Arts (KSFA), a coalition of arts groups and agencies from throughout the state. One of the organization’s primary activities was the organization and circulation of traveling exhibitions of Kansas art. By underwriting the costs associated with these exhibitions with dues collected from member organizations, the KSFA was able to provide communities around the state with quality exhibitions for a nominal fee. Through the efforts of theKSFA many small, rural communities throughout Kansas had access to exhibitions they would otherwise be unable to afford.
For Marshall, painting and drawing were important activities, but were secondary to his work as an architect. His architectural legacy includes many important public and private buildings in Kansas, including Smith Hall for the University of Kansas’s School of Religion, Carruth Hall at Washburn University, and the Kansas State Teachers Association building. From 1935 to 1945 Marshall served as the Assistant State Architect under Ray Stookey. After Stookey’s retirement in 1945, Marshall was appointed State Architect, a position he held until 1952. After his service in the State Architect’s office, Marshall went into private practice, retiring in 1986. During his tenure as Assistant State Architect, Marshall was responsible for overseeing the commission awarded to John Steuart Curry in 1939 to paint murals on the second floor of the Kansas statehouse in Topeka. One of Marshall’s first acts as State Architect was the hiring of Kansas artist David Overmyer to paint murals depicting the state’s history in the first floor of the capitol’s rotunda. Because of the limited funds available, Marshall had to hire Overmyer as an ordinary painter, paying him the same wages as if the walls were to be painted with interior housepaint.
Marshall’s paintings, drawings, and prints were products of his compulsion to delineate. He was never without his sketchbooks, pens, and pencils and constantly recorded his impressions of the people and places he saw around him. Making a point of drawing and painting everyday, Marshall filled volumes of sketchbooks and sketchpads with spontaneously rendered scenes from his daily activities including wildflowers he observed and the myriad figures he encountered in places such as restaurants, train stations, parks, hospitals, and grocery stores. His more considered compositions in watercolor and linoleum cut usually focused on buildings or particular places, some of which provide a record of historic buildings that were later modified or destroyed.