Time Out of Mind
East Lafayette Avenue
October 22, 2016
The metal letters nailed on the wooden door read simply: “HANS SCHULER—SCULPTOR.” “I’ve walked past it so many times and have always been curious about what’s inside,” says a visitor, ducking into the 110-year-old ivy-covered brick and sky-lit atelier.
“We get that a lot,” chuckles Francesca Schuler Guerin, the granddaughter of Hans Schuler, an Alsace-Lorraine immigrant known as Baltimore’s “monument maker” for his classical works across the city. An accomplished sculptor in her own right, Guerin is leading a rare tour of the Schuler School of Fine Arts, founded here in 1959 by her parents—Schuler’s son, also named Hans, and her mother, Ann Didusch Schuler.
Schuler’s works include five pieces in the Walters Art Museum collection, most notably a sculpture of Ariadne, the distraught daughter of the mythological Greek king Minos, which won him a gold medal at the Paris Salon in 1901. His outdoor works include the renowned Meditation and Memory pieces at Green Mount Cemetery, the 18-foot statue of Martin Luther at Lake Montebello, and the giant relief of Gen. Casimir Pulaski at the entrance to Patterson Park.
At the moment, a half-dozen students—surrounded by original scale models of Schuler’s sculptures—are quietly painting and sculpting clay in the day-lit studio, as others practice the basic drawing techniques that serve as the foundation of the school’s traditional curriculum. Students here learn to grind their own pigments in the manner of the old masters. In fact, the school was started as a protest against the modernist movement sweeping the nearby Maryland Institute College of Art, where Hans and Ann taught and the elder Schuler served as director from 1925-1951.
Despite the changing times, the school survives, buoyed by a commitment to what Schuler once described as “pure art” that has remained steadfast through succeeding generations. “I read an art magazine story about how the practice of teaching ‘cast’ drawing [charcoal studies of plaster busts] has been recently ‘rediscovered,’” Guerin says. “We’ve always taught cast drawing. It’s not like somebody’s discovered the Incas or something.”