Out of plein air

Posted on August 27, 2012


Back in the 19th century some enterprising manufacturers devised pre-mixed oil pigments and portable easels.  Enterprising artists carted these excellent supplies out into the wilds and began to paint light. They’ve been painting en plein air ever since.  In the process they defined the way we dream about our country.

Recently photographer Babs Young joined other artists for a plein air session at Loeb Farms in Charlevoix.  She writes:  This magnificent structure was originally part of what is now called Castle Farms. Built in 1918 by Albert Loeb and designed by architect Arthur Heun, it is still owned by Loeb descendants and is used as a summer home. It appears to be almost the same as it was when originally built, and still has great views of Lake Charlevoix. This is the side that faces the lake.

Loeb Farms operated all year round as a working dairy farm where progressive agricultural techniques could be tested. In its heyday it employed some 90 people. Coincidentally I have some vintage photos taken at the Loeb farm in the early 1920s. They were in a little photo album that found its way to Louan Lechler, who rescues orphaned family albums the way I rescue orphaned dogs. Now they’re in the digital photo archive at the Harsha House Museum in Charlevoix.

Loeb farm house circa 1923 – Lechler collection

I believe this is the smaller house on the estate, perhaps built as a guest house or a house for a farm manager.

Loeb farm implements circa 1923 – Lechler collection

The farm was a living demonstration of the David Bradley farm implements sold through the Sears & Roebuck catalog.  I will leave it to collectors of antique farm implements—and there are a fair number of them Around Here—to tell me whether that is, in fact, a Bradley.

Loeb model farm dairy barn circa 1923 – Lechler collection

The impressive stone dairy barn was restored and incorporated into Castle Farms.

Loeb model farm horse barn circa 1923 – Lechler collection

There was a horse barn, too, because modern implements aside, in the 1920s in northern Michigan, teams were the heart of agriculture.

Loeb farm team circa 1923 – Lechler collection

Loeb farm team and wagon circa 1923 – Lechler collection

And some notes