Wandering Palette: Watercolors from the ARTneo Collection

In the early twentieth century, Northeast Ohio became home to one of the most accomplished schools of watercolor painting in American art and helped to create a regional artistic identity. Watercolor embodied an important American value: freedom. The affordability of the paint and easily transportable materials gave artists the ability to leave the studio. Paired with a lack of stylistic tradition, artists permitted themselves to experiment and create their own styles. The qualities of spontaneity, economy of means, and freedom of execution were highly valued characteristics of watercolor, allowing for its ability to adapt to the out door art colonies that developed in places like Richfield and Zoar. The goal for these artists was to capture a more immediate response to nature. It also permitted the artists to travel both near and far.


Seen by his peers as the founder of the watercolor tradition in Cleveland, Henry Keller was the first artist in the region to gain notoriety for his work in the medium. He quickly became the area’s most influential teacher of watercolor techniques, combining it with tempera and gouache to create innovative results. In 1903, Keller formed a summer art school in Berlin Heights where students such as August F. Biehle, William Joseph Eastman, Grace V. Kelly, and Frank Wilcox each set out to paint en plein air by adapting the new styles of Post-Impressionism.


The egalitarian aspects of watercolor made it ideal to take on long distance trips. Artists from the region often traveled extensively throughout the United States as well as abroad. Watercolor would serve as a media to create both sketches and finished paintings. Traveling to the Southwest, both Eastman and Samuel Butnik captured interpretations of locales such as Taos, New Mexico. Other artists, like Paul Travis, captured scenes from Africa and Grace V. Kelly, who painted the landscapes and weather conditions of Ireland, instilled personal interpretations of distant places.


Watercolor held a favored role as a medium of choice in Cleveland well into the 1950s. Its use to capture scenes during travel documents an artist’s ability to seek out inspiration from the surrounding area and beyond. Wandering Palette examines the tendency of artists to seek out new places and new ways to interpret them through works from ARTneo’s permanent collection.  The exhibition is on view from Friday, January 13 through Friday March 3, 2017.



1305 West 80th St., Suite 016
Cleveland, OH 44102



Wandering Palette: Watercolors from the ARTneo Collection: January 13 – March 3, 2017