Carl Henry Ahrens (Canadian, 1862-1936) was an artist, printmaker, illustrator, ceramicist, writer, poet and teacher, known for his landscape & portrait paintings and his ties with the Roycroft; Elbert Hubbard’s Arts & Crafts community in East Aurora, NY.
1862- Born to Herman and Isabella Ahrens, February 15th, Winfield, Ontario, Canada.
Circa early 1880’s- Studied dentistry under his uncle Alfred Ahrens. Moved to Nebraska City, Nebraska to open his own practice which was a success.
Circa mid 1880’s- Married Emily Marion Carroll and their first son was born, Carl Herman, Nebraska City, Nebraska.
1886- With little formal training, he took up painting and found his calling. He observed the methods of other painters. Within a year he gave up dentistry and the family moved back to Toronto, and he opened a studio there on Adelaide Street.
1889- First exhibition at the Ontario Society of Artists, Toronto, Ontario Canada.
Circa 1890’s- Exhibited at the Ontario Society of Artists.
1891- Exhibited at the Canadian National Exhibition. Elected Associate Painter in the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.
Circa 1892- Studied painting under William Merritt Chase and drawing & sculpture under Francis Edwin Elwell, NYC.
1893- His painting “Cradled In The Net” was exhibited at the World’s Columbian Exhibition, Chicago, IL.
Circa 1893-95- Under his friend’s encouragement, fellow painter and mentor George Inness, Carl was told to stop taking art classes and paint what he wished to paint. So Carl took his advice, moved back to Toronto and resigned from all professional associations and began painting landsdcapes.
circa 1893-1896- Carl and his family lived just off the Ojibway Indian Saugeen Reservation (later known as the Chippewa), along with fellow artist and second cousin Eleanor Douglas (Canadian-American, 1872-1914), Ontario, Canada. 1895-96- Exhibited at the Canadian National Exhibition.
1896- Carl and his family, along with fellow artist and second cousin Eleanor Douglas (Canadian-American, 1872-1914) moved onto the Ojibway Indian Saugeen Reservation (later known as the Chippewa), located along the Saugeen River and Bruce Peninsula, near Southampton, Ontario, Canada. The family was officially adopted by the tribe and given new names. Carl was given the Indian name of Ah-sa-ba-nang (the name of the lost son), which translates to Cluster of Stars, and Eleanor received her Indian name of “Phpence” (which translated to: Laughing Girl).
1899- Met Elbert Hubbard, founder of the Roycroft Campus, who asked him to join his Arts & Crafts community and open a pottery studio, East Aurora, NY.
1900- May, moved to East Aurora, NY with their three children (Carl, Robert & Pauline) and his second cousin fellow artist Eleanor Douglas (Canadian-American, 1872-1914) and worked as a ceramicist craftsman along with Miss Douglas at the Short-lived Roycroft Pottery where he remained only for about four months. Eleanor Douglas tried to continue on without his help, but the pottery was soon dropped from the Roycroft production lines, East Aurora, NY. He later had his first one-man exhibition at the Roycroft, and remained there for about the next two years. While there he met his later wife Martha Niles, a young artist and singer who illuminated books for the book shop, whom he affectionately called Madonna.
Circa 1902-03- Briefly moved to Chautauqua, NY to help found and open an Arts & Crafts school. Moved back to East Aurora until 1905.
1905-06- Moved to New York City and was soon commissioned by Author George Wharton James (a Roycroft contact) to paint the Old Spanish Missions in California, to use as illustrations for a book on the same subject (due to financial losses in an earthquake, James was unable to publish the book). Studied with William Keith, San Francisco, CA.
Circa 1906-07- Carl married Martha Niles, one month before their son Laird was born.
1907- Moved back to Toronto and opened a studio. Met patron Colonel (later General) Malcolm Smith Mercer at an exhibition of Carl’s Meadowvale paintings, who agreed to purchase all of Carl’s paintings for the next three years.
1908- Their daughter Penelope was born.
1910- Their daughter Penelope died, one month before their daughter Sigrid Ahrens was born.
1911- One-man exhibition of 31 paintings of “The Mercer Collection” was exhibited at the Public Reference Library, Toronto, Ontario Canada. Offers were made to purchase the entire collection, some as high as $100,000 from European galleries, but Mercer refused. The collection was invited to be exhibited in Belgium, the first of its kind for a North American artist by a European country, but was halted due to the start of World War I.
1912- Their daughter Chloris, was born.
1917- Solo exhibition by The Robert’s Art Gallery, Toronto.
1919- Carl’s painting “The Glade” was requested for an extended loan to the Glasgow Galleries, Scotland.
1920- The family moved to the artist colony in Woodstock, NY, and Carl taught landscape painting there with Charles Etherington.
1921- Family moved to Rockport, MA.
1922- Family moved back to Toronto, Canada. Taught painting at his home that he called “Big Trees”.
1923- Exhibited at the Canadian National Exhibition.
1925- Began printmaking.
1930- Exhibited at the Canadian National Exhibition.
1933- One-man show to include selected prints, Cunningham’s Studio, Hamilton Ontario, and another show in Montreal, Canada.
1935-36- Had last exhibition of selected works from the “Mercer Collection” which were also sold. The family moved to England, an arrangement they thought would be permanent, and four months later Carl suffered a series of strokes. Carl wanted to go back home, so the family soon moved back to Galt, Toronto. Carl spent the last few years of his life in recurring illnesses and pain. He spent the last months of his life in care at the Toronto Psychiatric Hospital, under the request of his wife Madonna, to their old friend, Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King. Carl continued to paint until his death.
1936- Died, February 27th, Toronto, Canada after a long illness, at the age of 74.
Circa 1937- A “Memorial Exhibition of Selected Works” was held at the Mellors Galleries, Toronto, Ontario Canada.
1984- Exhibition of Ahren’s prints at the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, Ontario, Canada.
1995- Exhibition at Meibohm Fine Arts, East Aurora, NY.
2007- April 28th, was dubbed “Carl Ahrens Day” by the Waterloo Historical Society, Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, Kitchener, Ontario. Sept. 12 - Oct. 27, exhibited, two-person show, "Friends: Andre Lapine and Carl Ahrens", The Agnes Jamieson Gallery, Minden, Ontario, Canada.
2015- June 20-Sept. 5, exhibited, two-person show, "Parallel Destines: Carl Ahrens and Homer Watson", The Dundas Museum and Archives, Dundas, Ontario, Canada.
Memberships: The Ontario Society of Artists, the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.
Exhibited also at: The Royal Academy (frequently), Ontario, Canada.
Works: National Gallery of Canada and numerous public collections (please visit www.carlahrens.com for further information).
Publications: "Song of the Rapids", in the Saturday Night, October 6, 1894 issue; One Shade Brighter (Working title, previously known as The Oak Lovers), by Kim Bullock, novel is still in production for future publication.
To view additional works or to get further information, please visit the artist's website www.carlahrens.com, which was developed and is maintained by the artist's great-grand daughter Kim Bullock, or visit her Author Page at www.kimbullockauthor.com.
For additional information on this artist or for other examples of his works, please visit the AskArt link
(Rewritten in parts & compiled chronologically by Mark Strong of Meibohm Fine Arts, Inc., East Aurora, NY)