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A Brush With Light: Watercolor Painters of Northeast Ohio

April 23 - July 10, 1999

More than 60 works focusing on the development of one of the finest schools of watercolor painting in American art will be on display at the Ohio Arts Council's Riffe Gallery, April 23 through July 10, 1999. Organized by the Cleveland Artists Foundation, A Brush With Light: Watercolor Painters of Northeast Ohio features work by 25 artists including Henry G. Keller, Charles Burchfield, William Sommer, Clarence Carter and Hughie Lee Smith.

A Brush with Light: Watercolor Painters of Northeast Ohio is the first exhibition to examine the historical origins and development of the watercolor movement in Northeast Ohio. The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History says Cleveland surpassed Boston in the 1920s as the country's leading center of watercolor painting, and that attention helped bring about the identification of a Cleveland School of artists. A Brush With Light will provide a survey of work by the region's first influential watercolorists and demonstrates why Northeast Ohio became nationally recognized for significant achievement in the medium.

Henry Keller, appointed in 1903 as an instructor of watercolor painting at the Cleveland School of Art, founded the region's watercolor tradition. William Milliken, director of the Cleveland Museum of Art, 1930-1958, was its most ardent supporter. Kcller inspired students and colleagues to emulate his watercolor methods, then Milliken brought national attention to the region's watercolorists through a series of touring exhibitions.

During the early 1900s watercolor became an identifiably American medium. Heralded for its innovative, spontaneous, egalitarian, even virile character, watercolor became synonymous with the country's vision of itself in the early 20th century. Seeking innovative effects and more powerful, expressive styles, 20th century artists experimented with mixing transparent watercolor and gouache. Artists even combined those forms of watercolor with tempera, oil and other media. At the same time, they discovered that watercolor and gouache can be applied directly from the tube, without thinning them in water, creating thickly painted surfaces that simulate effects normally associated with oils.

As demonstrated by this exhibition, the artists of Northeast Ohio excelled in the classic technique of transparent watercolor. At the same time, they expanded traditional definitions of the medium by exploring new methods of painting with opaque watercolor, sometimes combining it with transparent watercolor and other media. Viewers of A Brush With Light are invited to explore the variety of techniques and make their own determination of the essential, defining features of watercolor painting.

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Arists, a national registry of historic artists.

The 13 images contained within this archive are intended for personal/educational use only. These images are protected by a 2003 photographic copyright which belongs to the Ohio Arts Council. They, therefore, are not in the public domain. Please contact the Ohio Arts Council directly if you wish to inquire about obtaining reproduction permission.

Image of watercolor and gouache by August F. Biehle, Jr. Image of watercolor by Charles Burchfield Image of watercolor by Clarence Carter Image of watercolor by Clara Deike

August F. Biehle, Jr.
Fire Tug on the Cuyahoga
c. 1909
watercolor and gouache, 10 x 14
Frederick C. Biehle and Ericka Hinrichs-Biehle Collection

Charles Burchfield
Summer Landscape
watercolor, 14 x 18
hahn Loeser & Parks LLP Collection
Clarence Carter
watercolor, 21 x 15
Southern Ohio Museum
The James and Tabitha Pugh Trust,
Scioto County Area Foundation
Clara Deike
Willows and Hollyhocks
transparent and opaque watercolor
18 x 21.5
Brian and Christine Pierce Collection

Image of watercolor by Russell Eisenhut Image of watercolor by William Grauer Image of watercolor by Grace Kelly Image of watercolor by Grant Reynard
Russell Eisenhut
In the Flats
Jay and Kathryn Ferrari Collection
William Grauer
Gaspe Farm
watercolor, 18.25 x 24.25
Courtesy of Rachel Davis Fine Arts, Cleveland
Grace Kelly
Autumn Still Life
c. 1904
watercolor, 15 x 20
Collection of the Cleveland Arts Foundation

Grant Reynard
Saturday Morning at the Cleveland Museum of Art
c. 1950
watercolor, 16 x 13
Baldwin-Wallace College, Berea
Image of gouache painting by Viktor Schreckengost Image of watercolor by Joseph Solitario Image of watercolor by William Sommer Image of watercolor by Paul B. Travis
Viktor Schreckengost
Forces of Nature
gouache, 20 x 30

Joseph Solitario
Night Train
watercolor, 9.5 x 14

William Sommer
Bathers in the Moonlight
c. 1916
watercolor, 12 x 8
Wasserman Family Collection


Paul B. Travis
transparent and opaque watercolor 21.5 x 28
Mrs. Michael Dreyfuss Collection
Image of watercolor by Kenneth Wood      
Kenneth Wood
Open Hearth - On Location at Republic Steel, Cleveland Flats
watercolor, 16 x 23
Private Collection, Cleveland


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