The following text was written by Paul William Smart, the artist's nephew:
JUSTIN C. GRUELLE, 1889 - 1978
Justin C. Gruelle was born in Indianapolis, July 1, 1889, the son of Alice Benton and Hoosier Group Painter, Richard B. Gruelle. The aspiring young artist painted portraits and landscapes with encouragement from his father and older brother Johnny, creator of Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy. Justin received formal training in drawing, painting and photography at John Herron Art Institute and The New York Art Student's League.
Between 1910 and 1955 the professional art career of Justin Gruelle centered around New York City where he was known for his detailed landscape paintings and colorful illustrations of products for advertising, magazine covers, movie posters, sheet music and books. He was commissioned to create family portraits, and eventually large corporate murals that combined his many talents. Justin's book Mother Goose Parade with fanciful illustrations was published in 1929 to great reviews. His home / studio was in Silvermine, the artist's colony along the river between Norwalk, New Canaan and Wilton Connecticut, where earlier he, his father and brother had been part of The Knockers, an artist's group that was the precursor of the Silvermine Guild of Art.
During the great economic depression Gruelle was commissioned to research and paint fourteen murals for the Federal Art Project of the WPA, Works Progress Administration, between 1935 and 1940. Six of these large murals are displayed outside the Mayor's office at Norwalk City Hall. One of his triptychs can be seen in the Norwalk Art Museum and another at Norwalk Public Library. There are five Gruelle WPA paintings in the Little Red Schoolhouse Museum, New Canaan Historical Society, and one large mural with twenty-four portraits in the library of New Canaan High School.
Wide acclaim for his large WPA paintings led to commissions for Gruelle to research and paint eight large murals for The Liquidometer Corporation, Long Island City, between 1940 and 1954. The Early Birds, an 18' x 7' oil painting on canvas, features seventeen portraits of aviation pioneers including the Wright Brothers and over twenty early aircraft against a visualized background of how the earth might someday appear from outer space. The painting was formerly in the collection of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C. After a three year exhibition at The Indiana Historical Society it has now been permanently installed at The Museum of Flight, Seattle, Washington.
In 1955 Gruelle and his wife Mabel moved to Alpine California in the mountains east of San Diego. They designed and printed a collection of silk screen prints and note cards to reveal the beauty of their new home town. Justin was fascinated with nature and created a series of oil paintings to capture the ever changing effect of light and shadows on the mountain landscape. Gruelle, a theosophist, created fourteen large paintings depicting The Way of the Cross for the new Queen of Angels Roman Catholic Church, his contribution to their Alpine community in 1959.
He died on April 20th, 1978; his ashes are interred in the Gruelle family plot at Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis.
Paul William Smart, May 1, 2009