Otto Eugene Hake Biography

Otto Eugene Hake




Otto Eugene Hake, muralist, printmaker, illustrator, designer, and teacher, was born in Ulm, Germany on December 17, 1876. His family emigrated to the United States in 1890, settling in St. Louis. While still a teenager, Hake apprenticed with a wood engraver in St. Louis and in 1892, at the age of sixteen years, he moved to Chicago to take a job as a wood engraver and illustrator for the printing company Biner-Wells. In 1898, he enlisted in the Spanish American War and when he reached the age of twenty-one, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. His first formal art training began at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1905, the same year he received his first mural commission for a Chicago public school. In the fall of 1905, Hake was accepted as a member of the Palette & Chisel Club. He is listed as teaching commercial illustration at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (formerly known as the Chicago Academy of Design) in 1909 and he also worked as a freelance illustrator and designer.

In 1912, Hake traveled to Paris and Munich to study at the Académie Colarossi and the Debschitz Schule, an experimental studio for applied and free art. He returned to Chicago and devoted much of his professional life to the Palette and Chisel Club, teaching classes, steering the club as president, and keeping the club relevant by editing its newsletter, The Cow Bell. Hake was a member of the Palette and Chisel Club from 1905 to at least 1957, and his murals decorate the club’s walls.

He also produced a body of color block prints with landscape subjects in the 1930s. They are delicately printed in washes of water-based inks with colors layered and no visible key block. It is unknown whom he learned the techniques from.

Hake was best known as a muralist, several of which he executed as part of the federal government’s New Deal relief projects sometimes known collectively as the PWA/WPA. He painted two murals in 1936 for the Black Hawk Lodge at the Black Hawk Historic Site, Rock Island, Illinois and at the DuPage Historical Society in Wheaton, Illinois. His other mural projects for public buildings in Chicago and environs, were most notably the Museum of Science and Industry and the Lakeshore Athletic Club. After he completed two school mural projects in 1940, Hake effectively retired from Chicago’s art scene.

He was also a member of and exhibited with the Association of Chicago Painters and Sculptors and the Chicago Gallery Association. His work was included in exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1916-1917, 1919-1922, 1924, 1928-1930, and 1933. Hake was included in the 1933 & 1934 World’s Fair exhibition Scenes of a Century of Progress and Painting by Light. His work is in the Palette and Chisel Academy, Chicago; and the National Gallery of Art and the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.

Otto Eugene Hake died in Chicago, Illinois on 16 July 1965 at the age of eighty-nine.