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Leon Van Loo
Carte de visite, detail
Private collection of Ron Coddington
(Rod Coddington, 9 April 2022) There is no doubt that Belgian-born photographer and art connoisseur Leon Van Loo (1841-1907) ranked among Cincinnati's best lensmen in the 1860s and 1870s. The medals he won for colored photographic portraits in the early 1870s and his 1875 invention of the "ideal" photo—a pearly, translucent image created by a negative on blackened iron, are tributes to his creativity.
In the early 1860s, Van Loo's passion for art prompted him to join the Cincinnati Sketch Club, an informal group of Bohemians who met regularly. It is possible that this photo collage scene, titled "Ye Criffers," includes the Sketch Club membership. Van Loo is pictured at the top center, holding a revolver and a clock and standing next to a camera upon which is written "Van Loo's Patent 1865."
By this time, Van Loo had amassed a modest fortune as a Southern cotton trader, and traveled back and forth to Europe where he enjoyed the arts and collected antique furniture.
Van Loo always returned to his adopted homeland.
In 1890, Van Loo and other artists founded the Cincinnati Art Club, which remains in existence today. The group originally numbered 13, and, concerned about the unlucky number, they added a pet dog as a 14th member.
Upon Van Loo's passing in 1907 at 66, he bequeathed $250 to Art Club members for a lavish feast. He reportedly noted, "If there is such a thing as the spirit of the dead returning to earth (which I do not believe), I shall be with the boys on that festive occasion." The boys held the event in the club on Oct. 26, 1907. 150 guests attended—Van Loo did not number among them.