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. Koller 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.
Featured artists include George Adomeit, August F. Biehle Jr., Lawrence Blazey, Carl Broemel, Charles Burchfield, Clarence Carter, Clara Deike, Joseph Egan, Russel Eisenhunt, Carl Gaertner, William Grauer, Hugh Huntington Howard, Henry Keller, Grace Kelly, Hughie Lee-Smith, Joseph B. O'Sickey, Grant Reynard, Viktor Schreckengost, Paul Shively, Joseph Solitario, William Sommer, Paul B. Travis, Richard Treaster, Frank Wilcox, and Kenneth Wood.
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.