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Stanford Fenelle (1909-1995)
Stanford Fenelle honed his artistic expertise with little interruption for more than sixty years. The result is a prolific legacy of diverse style, vision, color and principled technique.
Fenelle was born on June 12, 1909 to immigrants, Alban and Herminne Fenelle. He was the second of four children. His father (Swedish) and mother (Austrian) bought a home in South Minneapolis in 1915, and Stanford lived in this same home for 80 years, until his death on November 6, 1995. Herminne Fenelle encouraged all of her children in music, and young Stanford took music lessons to master various instruments. Music was important to him throughout his life and he played the cello with several Twin Cities’ orchestras. In the seventh grade, with the encouragement of a perceptive and enthusiastic teacher, Fenelle discovered his passion and talent for the visual arts.
From 1933 to 1942, Fenelle was actively involved in the Works Project Administration art division (WPA). He worked as a teacher and advisor. During this era, Fenelle exhibited his work while learning and painting with his contemporaries. He spent a summer painting with Cameron Booth. They composed many successful paintings and formed a lifelong friendship. Several years later Booth painted Fenelle playing the cello. This portrait reveals Booth’s admiration and affection for Fenelle. It is now part of the Minnesota Historical Society’s permanent collection.
When the WPA ended, Fenelle began a career with Brown & Bigelow, a large calendar and advertising company in St. Paul. During the next thirty years with B & B he perfected his renderings of hunting dogs. He never set aside his artistic passion in this work which allowed him to support his family, but instead devoted himself to creating spirited, vivacious work which were reproduced in calendars.
After his retirement from Brown & Bigelow in 1974, not missing a beat, Fenelle decided to capture some of Minnesota’s historical mills, one room school houses, and farmsteads. He and his wife Lilly took to the road, looking for interesting scenes to paint. His paintings from this time are detailed and sensitive renderings of Midwestern rural scenery and informal history. Fenelle exhibited his work only a few times during the second half of his life, but remained devoted to his vision. Through his work one conjures the gentle, confident man who cultivated his talent to discover himself.