The “Goose Grease Club”

Prehistory 1864 – 1877

As early as 1864, a group of young local artists met at William J. Lockhart’s studio in the Palmer Building. Somewhat disdained by the older, more established artists in the City, the group later became known as the “Goose Grease Club” or the “Reynolds Arcade Group”. The members were artists that had their studios on the top floor of the Reynolds Arcade. By 1872, the Rochester Sketch Club was established, and meetings where held in the studio shared by James Somerville and John Z. Wood. Other members included Harvey Ellis, Rev. James Hogarth Dennis, J. Guernsey Mitchell, Horatio Walker, And William J. Lockhart. Out of this Group, the Rochester Art Club was founded in 1877, the first officers where: James H. Dennis – president, Emma E. Lampert – vice president, W. F. Richenbacher – secretary, and John Z. Wood treasurer.


In November 8, 1878, the Democrat & Chronicle and Union & Advertiser gave the first note of the club, which indicated that “classes for ladies and gentlemen are held with live models”. No elementary art instruction was provided, and courses were only offered to individuals advanced in drawing. During the following years, various members of the art club were involved in art instruction. In 1880 Rev. James Hogarth Dennis taught drawing at the Ladies Art Exchange. By 1882 the demand for art classes was such that outside instructors were engaged, such as Miss Ida Taylor of Leroy, who taught oil and charcoal. By 1883 there were 75 pupils enrolled. The club discontinued art classes after the founding the Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute (now Rochester Institute of Technology).


The first exhibit of the art club was held in January 1880 at A. E. Dumble’s photographic parlors on State street. A Union and Advertiser article on January 9, 1880 describes the photo parlor as “crowded with invited guests”. The first catalogued exhibit was held in May of that year. Held at the same venue, the exhibit was quite successful, with a total of twenty five paintings being sold. The remainder of the art was auctioned off at the end of the exhibit. The club was incorporated in 1882, and moved its headquarters to J. Guernsey Mitchell’s studio in the Rochester Savings Bank.


Susan Collier, History of the Rochester Art Club, Vol. I (1978)

Rochester Art Club Meeting minutes, Virginia Jeffrey Smith, RAC History (1959)