Charles George Blake was born in Devonshire, England in 1866, but spent most of his life in the United States. Three years after his birth in 1866, Blake and his family left Lundy Island, off Devonshire, England, for America and settled in Rhode Island.
He studied at the Cowles Art School in Boston the Art Institute of Chicago and the American Art Academy, receiving several awards for his student paintings. In 1886, at age 20, he won honorable mention from the institute for his still life of the family attic.
In 1892, he set aside art for a successful business career. Heart trouble forced Blake into semi-retirement in 1926 to his winter home at 1101 22nd Ave. N, and returned to art. "For Charles, painting was the realization of a childhood dream”. After returning to painting, he pursued additional training and sought out the advice and critique of George Pearse Ennis, then the President of the American Watercolor Society, and J. Littlejohns, author of several books on art. He divided his time between Chicago and St. Petersburg, Florida, where he became active in arts organizations, serving as Florida State Chairman of the American Artist Professional League, Director of the Florida Federation of Art, and Honorary President of the Art Club of St. Petersburg, Florida. He was also a member of the American Artists Professional League and the John H. Vanderpoel Art Association.
In addition to painting, Blake authored a self-published book, Celtic Art (1933) and contributed articles to magazines and newspapers. Blake died in 1941 at his 22nd Avenue N. home in St. Petersburg, Florida. He is buried in Chicago inside the 10-crypt family mausoleum that he designed.
In 1934, 60 of Blake's paintings of Florida flowers and 20 works depicting American authors' homes were displayed at the Chicago World's Fair. He won first prize at the Florida Federation of Art Annual in 1936.
That year, 1936 Blake finished his Firsts of St. Petersburg, the watercolor paintings he began in 1929. Blake resurrected the city's past from 1929 to 1936 in nearly 80 watercolor paintings. "Blake painted his faithful facsimiles with a light and graceful touch." Blake attached researched material to each of his paintings. "Public-spirited women" built the fountain, Blake noted on The First Fountain in Williams Park. "The water was only turned on upon state occasions."
In 1982, the St. Petersburg Times purchased 75 of Blake's paintings from family heirs. The newspaper, celebrating its 100th anniversary in 1984, gave the collection to the city.
Blake's "Present of the Past" series was displayed at local malls. Today the works are preserved at the St. Petersburg Museum of History.
Compiled and submitted by Ben E. Kozlovsky, Sr.