Artists' Association

image description
Document from Books of Artists' Association

Photo Credit: Archival Image, 1885, box 600, folder 15, item 7, Rosemonde E. and Emile Kuntz Collection. 23 Apr. 2015.


Beginning of the School

The Artist’s Association began its days as an organization of artists referred to as the Southern Arts Union. This group, which was established in 1880, sought to establish a healthy relationship between New Orleans natives and the artists of the city for the joint appreciation of creative works. They hoped to improve the skills of professionals and amateurs through a combination of classes, gallery displays, museum displays, and a room specifically for reading the works of New Orleans poets and authors. The Union’s first exposition was founded at 203 Canal Street. The first classes were taught by a painter named Achille Perelli and focused on drawing. A library established by the group in 1882 was the first library of the city and held 1,000 volumes of literature. Despite being the first organization of its kind, the union dissolved due to poor structure in the mid 1880s. The members of this group would go on to establish the Artists Association in the year 1886. [1] .

Founders of the Artist’s Association

Charles Wellington Boyle

Charles Wellington Boyle was the founder of the Southern Art Union. When the group was restructured into the Artist’s Association, Boyle would begin teaching elementary art classes in the year 1886-1887. He is known largely for landscape oil paintings. His artistic and managerial skills lead to him being chosen as the curator of the Delegado Museum. [2]

Achille Perelli

Achille Perelli relocated to New Orleans in the aftermath of the Italian revolution in 1848. His most famous piece is a life sized statue of Dante that he sculpted free of charge. [3] . Perelli was the first sculptor granted a commission to build monuments in New Orleans. Many of the commissions memorialized Confederate generals. A Statue of Stonewall Jackson remains his most revered sculpture. Many of his statues stand today in cemeteries and other public spaces. As Perelli grew older, he began to focus more on watercolor and pastel painting. The paintings faced high demand in New Orleans. During this time, Perelli taught classes for the Artists Association. His experience brought students to the Association. Perelli also exhibited his paintings at the Artist’s Association’s showings drawing attention to the new organization. [4] .

Andres Molinary

Andres Molinary emigrated to New Orleans after studying art in Europe. Despite parents that did not support his artistic endeavors, Molinary set up a studio in New Orleans. His paintings gained much acclaim in New Orleans, and he used his studio as a place for local artists to congregate. After the Artists’ Association was established, He held the position of vice president in the year 1886 and the presidency in 1890. His leadership helped establish the Artist’s Association as a premier group of artists. [5]

George David Coulon

Coulon was born in France, but emigrated to New Orleans at a young age. He began his artistic career by fixing damaged paintings and teaching students basic painting. However, as he grew older he began receiving commissions from religious institutions. Together with Leon Pomarede, the artists recreated Raphael’s Transfiguration in St. Patrick’s Church. He was a founding member of the Southern Art Union and the Artist’s Association. His skill drew students to the school and patrons to the exhibits. [6]

The Artists’ Association

On October 3, 1885, the school created by the Artist’s Association began to offer classes. Prominent New Orleans Artists, including the artists mentioned above, taught classes in elementary art, sketching, perspective, oil painting, watercolor, and modeling. Many of the instructors, all of which were renowned artists, worked without pay until the association had reached a state in which it could begin to pay their teachers. At 31-33 Camp Street, the first official headquarters of the Artists Association held its initial exhibition. Each member of the Association contributed one piece of contemporary art in order to help offset the operating costs of the Association. As the group began to gain notoriety, artists from other parts of the country began sending their pieces to be displayed in the Association’s exhibitions. As the organization gained additional exposure, the facilities at Camp Street would no longer be sufficient. The bigger facilities opened its doors at 59 Carondelet Street. The association would remain here until it outgrew its already expanded location. Finally, they settled at 203 Camp Street and held their 5th annual exposition on December 16th 1890. Due to size issues, the association would use the Fisk Library for their expositions. In addition to teaching and displaying, the association would also release a bimonthly newsletter known as Arts and Letters. These efforts and other similar programs were extremely successful in bringing attention to the Arts. While the Artist’s Association revolutionized the organization and patronage of the Arts in New Orleans, other organizations were created and the market was saturated. As a result, the Artist’s Association joined with the Arts Exhibition Club to create the Art Association of New Orleans. [7]

Arts and Letters

A bimonthly publication called Arts and Letters, which focused on poetry, essays, book reviews, and art was circulated through New Orleans. The Artist’s Association compiled the first letter, but the Arts and Letters Association would publish later issues. The artists that contributed to the publication were all highly renowned in the community. William Woodward, a founder of the Arts Exhibition Club, wrote essays published in the periodical. Tulane’s president, William Johnston, would also contribute. The Artist’s Association, Tulane University, and William Seebold funded the publication through advertisements. [8]

Successors and Legacy of the Artist’s Association

The Woodward Brothers

The Woodward brothers were incredibly important in the merge between the two artistic groups. William Woodward is referred to as the father of Art in New Orleans. He painted impressionist paintings with great skill, and those define his legacy. During his tenure teaching art at Tulane University, he made a powerful impact on several students that would go on to become artists. Additionally, Woodward made an extreme effort to preserve the French Quarter. He advocated for the preservation of historic buildings especially the Cabildo. [9]

While William was a successful painter, his brother Ellsworth had more talent in the teaching and promoting the arts. Ellsworth taught at Tulane also, but he held other positions of power in the artistic community. He chaired the art committee at the Delgado Art Museum and would rise to the presidency four years later. However, the pottery that he made on Tulane’s campus would be his greatest achievement. He would make pots out of local goods and sell them. The pots would eventually become world renown. He became the second biggest individual potter in America. During the Great Depression, he would be the regional director of the Public Works of Art Project. [10]


When the two groups of artists merged forming the Art Association of New Orleans, Isaac Delgado donated the funds to create an art museum in New Orleans, which would be supervised by the Art Association. That museum is today known as the New Orleans Museum of Art. Additionally, the destruction of the Old St. Louis Hotel angered many patrons of the Arts. Groups that focused on Art appreciation sprang up in New Orleans including Le Petite Salon and the Arts and Crafts Club. The artists that formed the Artist’s Association had whetted the taste for Art in the City of New Orleans, and even though the original group had dissolved, the demand for art only continued to grow. The Artist’s Association created the city’s first library, Perelli beautified the city with sculptures after receiving the first commission, and Coulon helped recreate one of the most revered pieces of art in the world. However, they also trained many new artists, and their legacy is continued through similar groups that appreciate the Arts. [11]

Works Cited

  • Bonner, Judith. “Southern Art Union.” Southern Art Union. May 17, 2011. Accessed March 08, 2015.
  • Federal Authours Project. “Art.” In Louisiana: A Guide to the State, 161-69. Louisiana Library Commission. Baton Rouge. Accessed April 19, 2015.
  • Maselli, Joseph, and Dominic Candeloro. Italians in New Orleans, 12. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Pub., 2004.
  • Dobie, Ann. “Achille Perelli.” KnowLa. September 12, 2012. Accessed April 19, 2015.
  • Dobie, Ann B. “Andres Molinary.” Andres Molinary. September 12, 2012. Accessed April 19, 2015.
  • Bonner, Judith. “George David Coulon and Family.” KnowLa. January 6, 2011. Accessed April 19, 2015.
  • Bonner, Judith. “Artists’ Association.” KnowLa. January 3, 2011. Accessed March 8, 2015.
  • Bonner, Judith. “Art and Letters.” KnowLa. January 3, 2011. Accessed April 19, 2015.
  • Megraw, Richard. “William Woodward.” William Woodward. January 18, 2011. Accessed April 19, 2015.
  • Megraw, Richard. “Ellsworth Woodward.” KnowLa. January 21, 2011. Accessed April 19, 2015.
  • Federal Authours Project. “Art.” In Louisiana: A Guide to the State, 161-69. Accessed April 19, 2015.

This page was last modified on 06 February 2015, at 03:17


Artists' Association

203 Camp Street, New Orleans, La