The MAC Art Collection

Building an Art Collection

The Missouri Athletic Club acquired the first object that could be considered “art” in 1916.  It was The Ball Trophy, a large bronze casting of Mercury after the original by the late Renaissance master, Giovanni de Bologna. Phillip de Cateby Ball donated the sculpture as a trophy for the three-time national winners of the mile run. The Club’s policy toward outside competitive events soon changed and Mercury came into the permanent possession of the Club; soon to be looked at more as sculpture than as trophy.

The history of the Club’s collection really began in 1918 with the acquisition of the first oil painting, Windswept Meramec River by Tom Barnett. At that time there was almost no art, no formal proposal that there be any, and no art committee. There were just a few men sitting around the Wall Street Table who felt the Club was long overdue for some real art. Some of the men at the table put together the funds to purchase Windswept Meramec River for the Club, from St. Louis artist and architect, Tom Barnett. This first acquisition still hangs in the Downtown Clubhouse lobby for all to enjoy.

By 1940, the Art Committee was formally established with Jules Rombauer, Thomas Fry and Bruce Pates leading these efforts at an accelerated pace. Nearly 20 works of art entered the collection in that first decade of the committee, the first purchase being the large dramatic beach scene, After the Storm, painted in 1902 by French salon painter Georges Marionez. That same year, Mr. and Mrs. Rombauer gifted the Club a pleasing, sun-filled alpine scene, The Welcome Guest by German artist Emil Rau.

The variety within the collection may not always be that apparent as so many of the pictures are painted in the realist mode and are mainly figural. Genre and sentiment aside, diverse examples entered the collection in 1948 with the acquisitions of a quiet landscape, Mist and Moon, by St. Louis artist E.H. Wuerpel, a modern figural scene, The Art Students’ Bazaar, by local artist Fred Green Carpenter, a 19th century Italian realist painting The Rug Merchant; Pompeii, by Ettore Forti, the Impressionist painting, Finishing Touches, by St. Louis painter Richard Miller, and with the gift of a fine bronze casting of an athlete, The Sprinter, by Mexican born sculptor Charles Albert Lopez from local gallerist and Member C. Burr McCaughen.

In 2021, Past President Thomas C. Albus re-ignited interest amongst Members in once again forming a group dedicated to celebrating art at the Club.  Through the generosity of eighty-four Charter Members, The MAC Art Society was formed, and purchased thirteen artworks on behalf of the Missouri Athletic Club, from the collection of the MAC Foundation for the Arts.  These works are now part of the MAC Art Collection, which today comprises over 100 paintings, prints, sculptures and decorative art objects.

The MAC Art Society is committed to discovering, preserving and promoting the Club’s beloved collection of paintings, prints and sculptures and to celebrating the rich community of arts in St. Louis; but this mission is nothing new.
In fact, in 1963, Member Bruce Pates, the last surviving member of the original Art Committee at the MAC, helped to create the club’s first publication of the art collection in the Cherry Diamond.  This celebrated every artwork in the collection at the time with an illustration, short description and further comments by Bruce Pates.  Since that time, our art collection has more than doubled, and it is still common to see Members and guests alike casually but carefully looking at and discussing paintings hanging in the Art Lounge and throughout the Downtown clubhouse.  No longer is it possible to get a first-hand account of the formation of the art collection from those instrumental Members, but the vast collection gives us some indication of just how intentional their goal of collecting truly was.

To carry on the tradition of appreciation for talented local artists, the Club hosts a Featured Artist Series exhibition in gallery space within both clubhouse lobbies.

Featured Artist Series
For more information about art at the MAC, contact Kara Kelpe,