Ervin W. SPURR
Source: History of Black Hawk county, Iowa, and Its People; John C Hartman, supervising editor. Vols. I & II Chicago: S J Clarke Publ Co., 1915
It is a trite saying that there is always room at the top and if the general public only comprehended this it might be a stimulus for more thorough, conscientious and able effort. A recognition of this truth, together with a love for his art, has brought E. Willard SPURR not only to a position of leadership among the photographers of Waterloo and of Black Hawk county, but of the state of Iowa, and made him the peer of the ablest who occupy the front ranks in photographic art circles in the country.
For nine years he has maintained a studio in Waterloo and the city has reason to be proud to number him among her residents, as his life has been actuated by high ideals leading to notable achievement. As expressed by Mr. SPURR: "The artist's pursuit is unselfish. His reward is the delight in the beauty he creates. Nature and feeling are the artist's standard - truth and refined pleasure his chief end." This finds exemplification in his efforts, and his studio in Waterloo is one of the show places of the city.
He was born in the state of New York, near Westfield, and in his childhood days accompanied his parents on their removal to the west, at which time the family home was established in Vinton, Iowa, where they spent the remainder of their lives. He acquired his education in the schools of this state. He has been interested in art from his childhood and was an art student under Eckert, a noted artist of those days, from whom he received his first lessons when but ten years of age. He not only learned the actual work of the artist, but also was instructed by Mr. ECKERT in the study of human character and in connection therewith he took up the study of phrenology, in which he became most proficient.
He practiced phrenology with great success for about seven years and throughout the period also did art work, traveling through the summer and spending the winters in his studio. Nature splendidly endowed Mr. SPURR with talent of that character and the development of his native powers has made him an artist of rare ability. For a time he was located in Des Moines and came from that city to Waterloo, but previous to establishing his home here he spent two years upon the road, demonstrating art photography in different studios.
Coming to Waterloo in 1905, Mr. SPURR established his studio here in the Syndicate building, on the fourth floor, and called it the "One Man" studio, doing all of his own work. His rare ability, however, was soon recognized and the business grew rapidly, requiring a number of employes. In 1910 he removed to his present quarters on East Fourth street, where he has one of the finest studios in the state. His photographic work has taken awards and prizes throughout the entire country.
In 1899 he won the Iowa bronze medal; in 1900, the Iowa bronze miniature medal, the Iowa gold medal, the special per cent diploma, "Grand Portrait Class," of the North Western Photographic Association of America, and the special A class diploma at the convention held at Milwaukee, Wisconsin; in 1901, the Iowa silver loving cup, "Sweepstakes," the Iowa gold medal, "Prize Winners' Class," the Iowa gold medal, "Draped Fine Art Miniatures," a silver loving cup (open to world's competition) at St. Paul, Minnesota, the Iowa first prize, "Trophy," Traveling Cobbler, Descriptive Class, the first prize,"Trophy," Traveling Cobbler, Descriptive Class, at St. Paul, Minnesota,and the first prize, "Trophy," Traveling Art Miniatures, of the North Western Photographers' Association of America; in 1902, Honorable Mention, picture selected for Fine Art exhibit, New England, and the Minnesota Inter-State Picture Study, "Study Alone"; in 1903, the Iowa Inter-State Picture Study, "Rose Bud"; in 1905, Honorable Mention, open to the world (Fine Art Photographic Exhibit, New York city), two pictures selected for Fine Art Palace, World's Fair, St. Louis, and first prize, Iowa State Fair. Picture selected by American Federation of Art, passed on by the jury, and which hung in the North American Salon in 1912. He is now preparing a special exhibit for the Panama-Pacific Exhibition.
During the comparatively brief period of his residence in Waterloo his business has witnessed a marvelous growth and has resulted in a demand for the better class of photographic portraiture, which has extended into the very richest platinum and carbon pictures. The development of his business is the direct result of untiring energy and artistic genius, coupled with fair dealing and reasonable prices. Courteous and efficient service is always rendered to the patrons of the studio and a high standard of excellence is ever maintained.
It has been the greatest ambition of Mr. SPURR to represent true character. He has ever been desirous of securing a perfect likeness with less idealizing of faces, endeavoring at all times to preserve the living personality in its ruggedness or tenderness. Constant study and untiring energy have brought him individual style. He has in himself that artistic sentiment and temperament which enable him to recognize the possibilities of the subject and to depict the individuality and personality in such a vivid way that the likeness is astounding in its perfection. He uses the real Sepia process as put forth by the master artist, Van Dyck, producing a most beautiful brown that has proven to be most charming and satisfying to all lovers of art in portraiture. There are but few artists who make the true Van Dyck Sepia.
Another feature of the SPURR studio is oil painting, which equals in excellence the work which he does in photographic art. He has specialized in fine oil miniatures and his character studies are wonderful. He has studied every phase of the art, the possibilities of the sitter, and recognizes the value of all the elements of pose, light, shadow and character. He has been especially successful in child portraiture, on which he has won various inter-state prizes. He has written many able and interesting articles for photographic journals. Mr. SPURR's studio is the expression of his own artistic sense and temperament.
The beautiful reception room, the art display room, the art hall, the office and sales room and the artistic posing studio are all perfection in their particular line. Perhaps no better evidence of Mr. SPURR's standing in art circles can be given than by quoting from comments from leading newspapers. The St. Paul Dispatch of July 5, 1907, said: "E. Willard SPURR took first prizes in all classes in which he exhibited.
His photographs are greatly admired by the experienced photographers present, both for technical arrangement and general style. It is noticeable that Mr. SPURR does not carry retouching to an extreme. All characteristic lines are preserved and in his hands seem to add beauty rather than to disfigure the pictured faces. Mr. SPURR has a collection of miniatures that is said to be unrivaled for excellence west of New York." The Des Moines Register and Leader contained the following: "At the state convention of the Photographers' Association of Iowa at Des Moines last week, E. W. SPURR made exhibits in several of the departments, most notably in the prize winners or sweepstakes class, and in the miniature class. The other exhibits were special pieces for display.
But the judges didn't do a thing to him. They awarded him first prize in the prize winners or sweepstakes class, and then gave him ratings in all the other classes in which he exhibited and the summary showed that he ranked away ahead of all of them, so besides the gold medals for the other classes he was compelled to carry away also the beautiful silver loving cup which represents that his work stands above that of any other photographer in Iowa. It is a distinction that may well be coveted by anyone, and we congratulate Mr. SPURR on his success."
Mr. SPURR was married in June, 1912, to Miss Anna SANDER, of Waverly, Iowa. By his first marriage he had two children: Melbourne Erwin, who is also an artist and is proprietor of the Black Hawk Studio in Waterloo; and Gladys Celeste.
Mr. SPURR is a member of the Commercial Club and Board of Trade and is one of the charter members of the Town Criers Club. Fraternally he is a Mason and has attained the Knights Templar degree of the Work Rite and has also crossed the sands of the desert with the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. He holds membership with the Moose and with the Photographers' Association of America.
High indeed are the honors which he has won in his art. While nature endowed him with ability it has only been through industry that this has been developed and made a tangible asset. The consensus of public opinion places him among the foremost representatives of his profession in the United States and Waterloo is proud to number him among her citizens.
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