Harold Kee Welch (1905-1972)

Harold Kee Welch, American Artist, b. Oct. 27, 1905 – d. Sep. 11, 1972

A painter, sculptor and illustrator, his painting subjects were Chicago, Spoon River territory (Fulton County, Illinois), and Mexico.

Harold Kee Welch was born in Smithfield, Illinois. He graduated from Canton Senior High School and attended the Chicago Art Institute from 1924 to 1928 before embarking on his career as a commercial illustrator.

His influences were Louis Grell, Robert Henri, NC Wyeth, Winslow Homer, Diego Rivera and instructors and colleagues were Louis Grell, Benton Clark, Francis Rodrigo Gruger, and Frank B. Hoffman.

Welch was part of a group of artists who lived and worked in the Tree Studio building in Chicago, a building built for artists by Lambert Tree, a philanthropist. Other Tree Studio tenants of the era were J. Allen St. John (illustrator of Tarzan) and Wellington J. Reynolds.

Welch illustrated stories for the following magazines: Amazing Stories, Hygeia (a publication of the American Medical Association), The Kiwanis Magazine, Osteopathic Magazine and Super Service Station Magazine among others. Designed World War II productivity posters for Morton Suggestion Company.

As a commercial artist, Welch served as Art Director of Poster Products, Inc, Chicago, IL, late 1930 through mid/ late 1940s. Clients included the following: Hamms Beer (the Hamms animals), Kelloggs, DuPont paint, Craftsman Power Tools, Sears Roebuck, Inc., United Air Lines, Maytag Washers, Zenith refrigerators, Cadillac Vacuum Cleaners, Houbigant, Whitman’s Chocolates, Dona Castile soap, Packard automobiles, Santa Fe Railroad and Illinois Bell Telephone Co., among others.

His Seal of Fulton County is still seen on every map and highway sign in the county of his birth. His wood-relief carving The Good Samaritan still hangs in Peoria’s Memorial Hospital.

In Retrospect, a 16′ x 80′ mural depicting the history of Illinois, was originally commissioned by The First National Bank of Springfield. Today it hangs in Macomb, Illiniois at Western State University Library.

Hundreds of his paintings, carvings, murals, and sculpture are held in private collections around the country.

In 1963 he returned to Smithfield with his wife, Rita, and their five children. There he focused full-time on fine art until his death in 1972.

Selected Exhibitions:

  • Century of Progress World Expo, Chicago, IL 1933, mural painting, The Art Institute of Chicago Annual Exhibition, Chicago, IL, 1946
  • Work presented – The Junkey, 1946, Oil on canvas (source-Annual Exhibition Record, 1888-1950)
  • National Academy Museum of Fine Arts in New York (1948 juried show)
  • Work presented – Hollow Tree, 1946, watercolor, American Airlines Gallery, Chicago, IL, 1950
  • Work presented – 12 Mexican Watercolors, watercolor, American Airlines Gallery, 1958
  • Work presented – Puerta Vallarta: A Portrait, 1957 – a series of 24 watercolors of Mexico, Canton Park District, Wallace Park, Canton, IL, 1958.
  • Work presented – Puerta Vallarta: A Portrait, 1957 – a series of 24 watercolors of Mexico, Western Illinois University, Macomb, IL, 1979.
  • “Springfield – A Portrait”, 1964, oil mural (80’ x 16’) painted for the First National Bank in Springfield, Illinois.


  • Masonic Lodge, Cuba, Illinois – Cuba: At Work, Cuba At Play, oil mural originally painted for the State Bank of Cuba, 1961.
  • Peoria Memorial Hospital (Methodist), Peoria, IL – The Good Samaritan, 1970, wood-relief carving.
  • Harold Kee Welch Museum, Smithfield, IL – by appointment only. Located in the studio building of HK Welch (1962-1972), originally the State Bank of Smithfield (1890s).
  • Graham Hospital, Canton, IL (oil paintings)