An Artist’s Family
Justin Gruelle (1889–1978) came from a family of artists. His brother Johnny was well known as the creator of the Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy books and dolls, which were immensely popular.
Gruelle and his family lived on Yew Lane in the Silvermine area. He was known for his landscape paintings, as well as his illustrations for advertising, magazine covers, movie posters, sheet music and books.
Justin, his father and his brother were all early members of the Silvermine Guild of Artists and took part in the “Knocker’s Club” – the group of artists who met weekly to critique each other’s work.
During the Depression, he was commissioned under the WPA to paint 14 murals and numerous easel-sized paintings. Although many of his WPA works have been lost over time, his nephew, Bill Smart, continues to research and locate them. A selection of his works is installed in Norwalk’s City Hall and the Norwalk Public Library. Smart has donated all the works that you see here.
Like many artists, Gruelle used family members as models, including his wife, Mabel, his daughter and his son. Not only are the model fees minimal, but family members were always available. Gruelle’s son John Paul modeled for Building a Model Airplane 40, a commercial illustration.
My Little Family 38 shows Mabel reading to her children and includes Raggedy Ann, who was considered a member of the family. His self-portrait 36 was unfinished at the time of his death. This wall presents a family growing and changing over the years, a collective family portrait.