Pomona College Magazine
Volume 41. No. 2.
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Rembrandt Turns 100
The Rembrandt Club celebrates a century of support for the arts at Pomona College.

In fall 1905, Hannah Tempest Jenkins was hired as Pomona’s first resident art instructor. Up to that time, art instruction was given by Garden MacLeod who came weekly to Claremont from the Los Angeles School of Art and Design. Feeling that daily instruction was needed, President George A. Gates persuaded Jenkins to leave her studio in Philadelphia and come to campus, where she took over as the principal and resident art teacher, remaining for 20 years.

When Jenkins—a graduate of Teachers College of Columbia University, a student of the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts and a Paris Salonist—arrived in Claremont, the art department was little more than a dusty room in Holmes Hall.

The Rembrandt Club was founded that December, made up of art students and people from Claremont who joined as associates and patrons.

In the December 2, 1905 issue of The Student Life, Literary Editor Ruth Eddy, Class of 1906, wrote: “Claremont rejoices in a new organization. The Rembrandt Club, which was organized in the sketch class of the Art Department, has already enrolled a number of members and mapped out a most interesting year of work. Altogether we may congratulate Claremont and the student body on the opportunity that has been given them for art study; and art study in it broadest sense, for besides the subjects mentioned the Club hopes to do much to bring order out of chaos where it exists, and art into every corner of Claremont.”

Eddy became the first president of the Club, which had 16 active members that first year, all art students. There were 13 associate members, including Mabel Shaw Bridges ’08, Mrs. George A. Gates and Mrs. F.W. Thomas, wife of the College’s physical examiner of men. The foreward of the Club’s prospectus said: “The Rembrandt Club makes no apology for its intrusion upon the busy time of the students and town people of Claremont, but requests your favorable consideration of its modest prospects, believing you will feel with us that it is calculated to meet a real need and desire of our community.”

The Club’s first year of programming included “Pottery and Potters,” “The Galleries of Madrid,” “Some Tests of Art Life in Literature,” “A Study of Rugs,” and “High Art in the Arrangement of Cut Flowers.” Generally, speakers were chosen from the membership, all doing their own research papers.

In the October 11, 1907 Student Life, William McDermitt, Class of 1909, wrote an enthusiastic report on the new commodious rooms on the second floor of Holmes Hall, improvements attributed to Jenkins. “These two rooms had been re-tinted; the larger of the two has been subdivided by the use of natural burlap screens so as to form portrait and still life sections; the smaller of the two rooms is used entirely by the antique class, which is much larger than any previous year. This room is well equipped with its large collection of classic and anatomical sculptures. Upon entering the larger main studio, one is impressed by the tonal whole; the delicate brown and ecru, the subdued floor, the draperies of natural burlap, all tend to develop that harmony too often lacking in our modern decoration. The paintings of portraiture, landscape and still life upon the walls give the studio atmosphere.”

So much of the history of The Rembrandt Club and the Art Department at this time centers around Jenkins. She chaperoned groups and gatherings of students—art department picnics for an afternoon of sketching, bug catching or flower picking. She lived most of her life in the Claremont Inn and when it closed for the summer, she would leave town on a trip with a showing of her summer’s work in the fall. On a sabbatical leave in 1912–13, she took a trip around the world, doing sketches wherever she went. It was perhaps her most notable lecture—on Egypt and the Nile. It was illustrated with paintings of the scenery done by the art students and Jenkins—about 30 pictures on about 55 yards of canvas. The Student Life reported it drew about 200 people to Holmes Hall. Proceeds went to the furnishing of the new Rembrandt Hall.

By October of 1908, the Club was already talking of “making every effort towards securing an art building for the college.” They were talking in those days in terms of a $20,000 structure which could be enlarged in the future. A committee was appointed. Just who constituted this committee and what they accomplished is not known. What is known is that a number of projects to raise money were started and that admittance fees were charged for events, all advertised for the building fund.

The July 10, 1912 edition of the Claremont Courier carried the story that the committees of The Cactus Club and The Rembrandt Club held a joint meeting to discuss the question of a joint club house. The ladies were willing to put $5,000 into a club house. At a special meeting on October 29, 1912, the Club president, Mrs. H.G. Renwick, reported that plans had been made that will cost $25,000. In addition to rooms for working art classes and space for the proper arrangements and exhibition of works of art, the building would include an audience room fitted up for the uses of The Rembrandt Club and the Cactus Club, as well as for chamber concerts given by the School of Music. With the cooperation of the president of the College, the Club endeavored to raise at least $8,000 ($1,200 already raised was included) which would complete one unit of the building. The understanding was that work would begin by December 15 if the pledges for $6,800 were in hand. General membership approved, with promise of payment by April 1, 1913. At a December meeting, general membership voted to request that the College not begin construction work until after the orange crop was well on the way to market as several parties had expressed a willingness to give large donations when the crop had been harvested. By October 1913, they were talking of completion by Thanksgiving. It was to be a two-story building of reinforced concrete. The first floor was to contain the auditorium of The Rembrandt Club with a hallway and lobby in front and a kitchen in the rear. The auditorium was to seat 250 people—though it actually sat closer to 100 people—and was to serve as a place for recitals and concerts as well as for the meetings of the Club which was 75 members strong. The second story was to be devoted to rooms for the Art Department in addition to an office for Jenkins. There was to be one large room to be used by the students. The building would eventually constitute only a little over half of the whole art hall. An addition almost the same size will be placed on the west side. (This was done in 1937.)

In 1921, the Art Department added Professor Edward Kaminski to the faculty; he became chair of the department in 1923. Jenkins retired officially in 1925, but by January 1926, she returned to campus in her studio on the first floor of Sumner Hall. She was there every morning, 9 to 11, available to students. She passed away quietly in a Glendale Hospital on Sept. 27, 1927. Her will provided that her pictures be given to the College to either keep or sell to provide for an endowment for the Art Department. She also provided a $5,000 scholarship for art students that is still offered in the form of the Hannah Tempest Scholarship.

In the years since 1927, The Rembrandt Club has rolled with the changes. Lectures are still given once a month during the school year. However, Club members no longer give their own talks, and guest speakers are paid an honorarium. The topics of the programs continue to be diverse. The Club continues to have teas and homemade refreshments after the programs. To the regular lecture schedule, the Club has added trips out of town to art museums and events. This year, the Club will be decorating its 25th large evergreen Christmas tree at Seaver House. The tree is previewed with a gala dinner the Friday evening before the Saturday afternoon party at which members serve their famous syllabub, wassail, home-baked goodies, with Santa Claus, entertainment for children and their famous bake sale.

The general membership, president and board members are no longer students. Over the years, it is the town people who have joined and contributed their time. And contrary to all appearances, there are male members. The Club offers a research fellowship to allow a junior student to spend the summer before the senior year working on his/her senior project. Earlier support was in the form of awards given at commencement time.

In honor of the Club’s 100th anniversary, this year’s events will welcome artists who as Pomona students received awards from The Rembrandt Club.
—Perdita Sheirich

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