Joe Vorst & Matt Ziegler
Joseph Paul Vorst and Matthew Emil Ziegler, were both members of the Sainte Genevieve Art Colony and were part of the creative circle of friends and family that I grew up in.
The better known of these, Joe Vorst, was a cousin of my mom’s who had come over from Germany in 1930. The lack of freedom of expression there caused him to leave his home and come to the States.
This photo was taken before Joe came to America.
It shows him with photos of my mom and her brother Joseph L. Vorst.
Mom and her family were the only connection Joe had in this country so he sailed to New York and then traveled on to Ste. Genevieve by train. He began building a house and studio on the Sugar Bottom Road, part way between our place and George Mueller’s home. It was a pretty spot, called Maple Grove, where we often went to picnic at the creek. He didn't get very far with it, but the stone foundation is still there. He ended up settling in St. Louis County where he built a stone house and studio. We would often go to visit him and his wife, Lina. Even as a young man he was tall with a head of thick white hair. During those visits I was terrified - frightened by him with his gruff German accent and scared of his big black cat, Schatze. (Schatze often appears in Joe’s work.)
Joe’s artwork hangs in several museums now and is included in many art shows. Our family accumulated a large collection of Joe’s work probably as gifts from him. There is also information that suggests that while still in Germany Joe did a portrait of my grandfather, Léon, which he sent to the family, however no one has any recollection of such a piece.
Matt Ziegler had grown up with Mom in Sainte Genevieve. His uncle, Henry Clay Ziegler, was married to Josephine Vorst. Dad, Joe and Matt all enjoyed photography. Joe and Matt often used it as a basis for their work. So the three had a common bond.
Joe and Matt with Myrtle and her family on the front steps of the Léon Vorst house.
My dad probably took the photo.
Matt owned the old French and Indian Trading Post and the Mammy Shaw House at the corner of Merchant and Second Streets that was the home of the art colony. Later he ran a restaurant there called the Old Trading Post that was one of the main stops when Uncle Bud’s French Club toured the town. The menu was brief - pecan waffles made of whole wheat, which Matt had raised and ground into flour himself; hickory-smoked ham; and honey from Matt's bees. The inn was full of charming antiques and the walls were covered with artwork by Matt and by Joe.
When I was little I loved to visit Matt’s farm. He raised goats and I loved the goats! Especially a little one that I named “Billy.” I begged to take Billy home with me, but I was always told, “Billy can be your goat, but he has to stay here on the farm.”
Matt liked to help young artists and thought that I should be encouraged. One evening he picked me up at our house in St. Louis and took me with him to an art class. I had no idea what to expect. When a young woman walked out, sat down and dropped her robe, I could have died of embarrassment. Somehow I managed to pick up the charcoal and draw her.
Matt painted on just about anything - even little pieces of cardboard. These small oils were called “practice boards” and they were scenes that would become part of his larger works. Dad gathered up any of those that he could and framed many of them to hang in our house. Now they hang in my house. As a wedding gift Matt gave me a watercolor that had taken second prize in a St. Louis art show. Unlike his usual landscapes it is an abstract that can be hung in any direction. Dad and my uncle, Karl, named it “A-bomb on Manhattan,” and I never had the nerve to hang it. The piece is now hanging in my son’s house and is actually very attractive!