Alice Cranston Fenner (of Artyle Studios)

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Brief Artists’ & Company Bios: Artyle Studios (c1930-c1962) gift shop was originally located in Belmont, NY on North Street and was run by Alice Augusta Cranston-Fenner (1894-1982) and Glenn Babcock Fenner (1896-1974). Alice was a renowned artist, painter, sculptor, ceramicist, designer, expert overglaze painter, poet and author. She was born November 13, 1894 in Bolivar, Allegheny County, NY to Allen L. & Inez Cranston. Alice graduated with a bachelor of fine arts degree from Alfred College in 1918 (now Alfred University). She later studied under Dr. Charles Fergus Binns, associated with the Royal Worcester Potteries in England.

Glenn Babcock Fenner was born June 3, 1896 in Alfred, NY to Eliam and Susan Babcock and was a master craftsman and was a member of the University Lodge 944, F&AM of Alfred, and the Alfred University Church. He served in France during World War I with the 96th Aero Bombing Squadron.

On July 14, 1920, Alice married Glenn and they opened their famed gift shop around 1930 and they sold her Artyle plaques along with her various art pottery, vases and porcelain figurines. Glenn did the molds for her sculptures and ran the gallery, and was also the chemist behind a new & improved method of producing her bas-relief plaques. The Artyle plaques that she did typically bear her name of ‘Alice C. Fenner’ inscribed on the back of the pieces and the studio quickly built up a reputation in the industry as a source of beautiful bas-reliefs for home decoration during the 1930’s which won them wide popularity. In 1936, Alice modeled a plaque of Will Rogers that garnered wide interest from collectors and critics hailed the plaque as “one of the best likenesses of Will Rogers ever modeled in that it is not only a physical likeness but a close delineation of the character of the man and a brilliant interpretation of him in his most characteristic mood.” Alice was also known for her bronze bas-relief portrait commissions that she did of Frank N. Travis, the well known Connecticut philanthropist, and also of the late James Anson who was a member of the Connecticut Assembly.

In 1939, Glenn founded the Alice Cranston-Fenner Fine Art Gallery, and served as master craftsman and manager. The studio later moved to Woodville, New Preston, CT around 1940 and went by the name of Cranston-Fenner Studio and then were later located out of Litchfield, CT. Circa the late 1940’s or so, the studio moved to Portville, NY and then later to Olean, NY in 1958.

Alice and Glenn eventually settled in Wilmington, NC in 1962 and opened the Alice Cranston-Fenner Art Gallery under Glenn’s management and the gallery was located at 2311 Market Street. Their philosophy was the “Beauty of lines, uplifting subjects and color that inspires”. The gallery sold a ‘distinguished and versatile’ line of her paintings of country landscapes, European street scenes & various cityscapes, seascapes & harbor views, gardenscapes, dog & horse portraits, fantasy scenes and pop-art. The gallery was known for their generosity and both Alice and Glenn contributed their time freely to helping schools, hospitals and various charities in and around Wilmington through art education and social distinction. Alice even maintained an art program on the local Wilmington television network, which ran for over 30 episodes in the late 1960’s.

In addition to her famous plaques, Alice was also known for clock designs for the Westclox company, plates, and greeting cards and she regularly exhibited her work. Glenn was a member of the Cape Cod Art Association; charter member of Torrington Artist; the Ceramic Guild of Alfred University; the A.A.N.C.; the 20th Century Club of New York City; the American Ceramic Society, and the Roger Williams Historical Society. Alice authored several books to include; The Philosophy of Art: Petite Essays (c1969), Poetic Jingles (1975) and Dreams Do Come True (1976) to name a few.

The couple lived in Wilmington for the remainder of there lives and were happily married for over 50 years. Her husband Glenn died on April 7, 1974 in New Hanover Memorial Hospital following a long illness, and Alice died on August 17, 1982 at the age of 87. They are both buried in Wilmington National Cemetery, Wilmington, NC.

(Written & compiled by Mark Strong of Meibohm Fine Arts, Inc.,