Historic Studio

Helen M. Wessel, 1966

Our dear friend, patron and gifted artist, Dr. Helen M. Wessel, helped make it possible for us to own the historic 1887 Herman and Bessie Wessel House and Studio in which I work. Not far from the Cincinnati Art Museum in Eden Park, it is a fine example of Queen Anne/ Eastlake architecture, and features a wonderful north light studio addition built in 1930.

Helen’s in-laws, Herman and Bessie Wessel, were students and friends of the “founder of the American School of painting,” artist Frank Duveneck. They bought the old house in 1927, and after traveling through Europe, returned home and built the studio addition on the sloping hill to the east. The Wessels continued to live and work in the house for nearly fifty years. In 1973, the care of the family home passed to Robert and Helen for several more decades.

Robert and Helen Wessel lived a full and rich life separately and together. Robert traveled extensively with his parents; joining them on a sixteen month sabbatical to Europe in 1929, and on frequent trips to Gloucester for the summer. These varied experiences sparked his interest and curiosity in many and diverse areas, and led him to a career as a renowned economist, private pilot, and provost at the University of Cincinnati.

Fashion design and a playful love of color have always been areas of strong interest for Helen Mueller Wessel. After she met and married Bob, they too traveled and summered in eastern Massachusetts. She went on to receive a doctorate in art education at the University of Cincinnati, and eventually became head of the department.

When Bob passed away in 1996, Helen settled permanently in Florida. There she continues to sew and create beautiful, richly colored textiles in her new Jon Woodman designed home and studio overlooking the water. She remains a strong advocate of art education for children and adults of all ages.


Robert Wessel

Today, I have the privilege of painting in the Wessel’s old studio on Frank Duveneck’s easel. But while it is clearly a unique experience, the stewardship of this space is a special responsibility as well. As we continue to restore various aspects of the home, our future goal is to share some of the archival resources with which we have been entrusted. Eventually, aspiring artists interested in studying how Herman painted some of his acclaimed murals may come examine his studies. And Bessie’s admirers may have a look at her progression as a student of Frank Duveneck by examining the extraordinary charcoal drawings she did under his tutelage.

Herman and Bessie Wessel in the studio, circa 1960*

copyright 2008, Carl J. Samson - Site design and development by Melissa McClanahan