George Redlich, Volunteer and Artist

December 14, 2018
By
George Redlich post-Spain, Photograph from Shawn Walker.

George Redlich post-Spain, Photograph from Shawn Walker.

 

George F. Redlich was born on March 22, 1919, in Stillwater, Oklahoma to German immigrants Frederick Wilhelm Redlich and Bertol (Eckold) Redlich.[1] When George was about twelve-years old, his father moved the family from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Chicago, Illinois. The move was prompted by his father’s job loss and the hope that he would be able to find employment in Chicago.  George Redlich graduated from Hyde Park High School on Chicago’s South Side.[2]

When volunteers were sought for the International Brigades George, who was a member of the communist party, volunteered. He applied for a passport and received it on January 22, 1937. The passport listed his address as 5709 Dorchester Avenue, Chicago. [3]  Redlich sailed for Europe on January 28, 1937, aboard the Aquitania.[4] After docking in France, he travelled to Paris and from there to the South of France where he made a covert crossing into Spain. Redlich reached Albacete on March 17, and enrolled in the International Brigades where he served in the Sanidad (medical services).[5] He was repatriated due to his age and a report that his mother was ill.[6] Redlich returned to the US on August 30, 1937, aboard the Berengaria.[7]

Redlich was a talented artist and after his return he continued his studies at Chicago Art Institute on a scholarship.[8]  He found employment as an artist with the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and signed his works “Géorg Redlich.” Redlich’s studio was in a block of one-story artist studios just east of the Illinois Central tracks on Fifty-Seventh Street and he lived with his family in the Century Hotel.[9]

Redlich 1

Untitled, Géorg Redlich, Family Collection.

Redlich married Josephine M. Simpson on November 4, 1940. They had a daughter Karla Redlich.[10] Redlich’s promising career was cut short when he was killed in an auto accident on December 21, 1941.[11] He was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery, Chicago, Illinois. After his death his widow and child moved to Mexico.[12]

Untitled, Géorg Redlich, Family Collection.

Untitled, Géorg Redlich, Family Collection.

Thirteen of his paintings hang in the Chicago Art Institute. These works, most of which are mixed media, are part of a Works Progress Administration Allotment. Images of all thirteen works are available online at: at the Chicago Art Institute website.

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[1] L-W Tree, Ancestry. The family included: Parents Frederick Wilhelm Redlich (1880-1940) and Bertol Eckold (1891-1954), brother Paul Richard Redlich (1923-2007), and sister Kathleen Mary Redlich (1925-1990)

[2] Information provided by Shawn Walker.

[3] Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History, Comintern Archives, Moscow, (hereafter RGASPI), Opis 6, Delo 848, ll. 35, Complete List of Americans on File April 13, 1937; New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957, Berengaria, L-W Tree, Ancestry.

[4] Sail List, Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Office, undated. Two lists one alphabetized and the second by ship and sailing date collectively referred to as the Sail List. The compiler is unknown but likely drew from 852.2221 records in the United States State Department Archives. The State Department obtained lists of 3rd class passengers from all lines travelling to Spain throughout 1937 and into early 1938.

[5] RGASPI, Opis 6, Delo 848, ll. 35, Complete List of Americans on File April 13, 1937.

[6] RGASPI Fond 545, Opis 6, Delo 53, ll. 8, Repatriations (hand-written) April 16, 1937; and RGASPI Fond 545, Opis 6, Delo 53, ll. 37, List of Repatriated Comrades up to July 1st [1937]; the later (ll. 37) notes Redlich as “very young, homosexual.”

[7] New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957, Berengaria, L-W Tree, Ancestry.

[8] Un-named article, Chicago Tribune, March 10, 1940 cited on New Deal of the Day, “young scholarship student at the Art Institute” http://nddaily.blogspot.com/2018/04/new-deal-celestial-art-25-constellation.html

[9] Very few sources on George Redlich are readily available. During an online search three mentions of Redlich appeared in the memoirs of Ned Rorem a friend of Redlich. Rorem is a well know composer who later published several books drawing on his diaries. He mentions Georg Redlich as an artist friend who died young in both Setting the Tone: Essays and a Diary, NY and The Paris Diary and the New York of Ned Rorem, reprinted as The Paris Diary and The New York Diary 1951-1961.  In Knowing When to Stop, A Memoir, Rorem provides more information about Redlich and his wife “Josefina.” Rorem notes Relich was “the officially sanctioned “fairy” in the militant left wing of our local artist colony.”

[10] Cook County, Illinois Marriage Index, 1930-1960, L-W Tree, Ancestry.

[11] “Georg F. Redlich, Young Artist is Killed in Wreck,” Chicago Tribune, December 22, 1941, p. 12. Redlich was killed when his car struck a light pole. His companion John J. Petrie was hospitalized.

[12] Information and photos of family art works provided by Shawn Walker.

 

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