George Raab (1866 – 1943) was born in Sheboygan, Wisconsin on February 26, 1866. The son of an immigrant German merchant and ship owner (one of his father’s vessels was named the Little Georgie), George Raab was educated in Milwaukee, Munich and Paris. His teachers included Richard Lorenz (1858-1915) and Robert Schade (1861-1912) in Milwaukee, C. Smith in Weimar and Gustave Courtois (1853-1923) in Paris.
Raab was befriended by Frederick Layton, a wealthy meat packer and art collector. Layton named Raab to the post of curator of the Layton Art Gallery which he established in 1902 to show his personal collection. Layton was so impressed with Raab that he took him to England and the continent on his yearly buying expeditions. In addition to his curator duties Raab continued his career as an artist. He was able to exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1902 and 1903 and from 1909 to 1911. He was also included in a Corcoran Gallery Annual in 1907 and his The Lone Pine won a medal at the Milwaukee Art Institute in 1917.
In 1912 Raab married Helen Ware (1889-1970), a young woman who was twenty-three years his junior. Raab adopted her son, Kirby, from a previous marriage. Kirby Raab recalled years later that the family lived in an apartment in the basement of the Layton Art Gallery which served as his childhood playground.
In 1920 the directors of the Layton Art Gallery decided to open the Layton School of Art on the premises of the Gallery. Apparently Raab was not in favor of the project and fought a rearguard action to thwart the establishment of the school. The directors requested his resignation and Raab left his post as curator of the collection in 1920 after serving twenty years in that capacity.
For the next year Raab taught at the State normal School, now the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where Alexander Mueller (1872-1935) served as head of the Art Department. However, Raab accepted the position of Director of the Art Institute and Art School in Springfield, Illinois in Jury of 1923. Raab’s wife of eleven years did not make the trip to Springfield with him when he left Milwaukee in September, 1923, and the couple divorced the following year.
Raab remained in Springfield for only two years before moving to Decatur, Illinois where he accepted the position of Director of the Decatur Art Institute which had been established in 1919 by a bequest of Anna Millikin, who donated her mansion to serve as the school. Raab established his own studio in a barn behind the Art Institute. Raab also joined the faculty of Millikin University as a lecturer in Fine Arts. He subsequent served as Acting Director of the School of Fine Arts and later as Acting Head of the Department of Fine Arts. In addition to his regular duties as a teacher and administrator, Raab continued to paint and to exhibit his works. He served as a judge for art exhibited at state and county fairs, painted murals for the music college, spoke before audiences of school children and he gave Sunday afternoon gallery lectures at the Decatur Art Institute.
During his years in Decatur, Raab regularly spent his summer vacations in Milwaukee where he kept up his contacts and arranged to have his paintings exhibited. This included a one-man show at the Milwaukee Art Institute in September, 1928, and an exhibition of his prints at the Institute in July, 1935.
In May, 1937 Raab retired and moved back to Milwaukee. The last years of his life were spent with his sister where he also maintained a studio. In 1937 Raab was honored by being elected a life member of the Milwaukee Art Institute and by being named an honorary board member. He died in Milwaukee on September 24, 1943 and was buried in his birth city, Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
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