George Leonard Herdle

George Leonard Herdle, MAG Archives

George Herdle was born in Rochester and studied in Holland and Paris. Before 1913 he worked as a freelance artist and taught at the Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute (now Rochester Institute of Technology). He exhibited at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the Pennsylvania Academy of Art in Philadelphia; the American Academy of Design, New York; and the New York Watercolor Society. Herdle was President of the Rochester Art Club from 1902 until 1920.

George Herdle was named Acting Director of the Memorial Art Gallery in September 1913, and confirmed as Art Director by April 1914. Avidly interested in contemporary art, Herdle was friends with many prominent artists of his day and arranged a remarkable series of exhibitions during his tenure, beginning with the Gallery’s Inaugural exhibition, which “followed by a few months the legendary Armory Show in New York City, which introduced European modernism to the United States. MAG’s very first display featured art by contemporary American painters, including George Bellows, Winslow Homer, and George Inness.” Other exhibitions from Herdle’s tenure included one-man shows of works by James McNeill Whistler and George Bellows; group exhibitions of American modernist artists; the world premiere exhibition of Kodachrome color photography in 1914; an exhibition of Impressionist work from the Musée du Luxembourg in 1919, the 1920 Homelands Exhibition, and an early American exhibition of work by the Canadian Group of Seven.

Herdle died in 1922 after several years of serious illness. The Gallery’s Archives holds a collection of tender letters written to his family during his treatment at the Mayo Clinic during this period. After his death, a memorial exhibition of Herdle’s paintings was installed at the Gallery. His works are in the collections of the Memorial Art Gallery, the Strong Museum in Rochester, and the Jersey City Museum in New Jersey.