Day Job: The Working Artist

It is rare that a fine artist is able to support themselves with the sales of their art alone. Many artists turn to creating commercial art as a means of earning extra income or to support their studio practice. Day Job: The Working Artist examines the commercial work of Cleveland School artists in context with their fine art. As a major manufacturing center in the early twentieth century, Cleveland attracted a number of creative businesses, particularly in lithography. Artists like William Sommer and August Biehle were employed in the movie poster industry at Otis Lithograph creating striking compositions that exhibited modern art sensibilities. A number of other industries employed local artists to create advertisements. Clarence Carter, Joseph Jicha, and Rolf Stoll each worked in advertising, lending their unique artistic voices to products such Alcoa aluminum, spark plugs, and even automobiles. Many of these early artists were also commissioned to create public service announcements for the Red Cross and the Community Fund, and propaganda posters during World War I and World War II.

Joseph Jicha, General Deep Cross Lug poster, 1950s, Private Collection

A key factor in the success of regional artists in the commercial field was the strength of the Cleveland School of Art (now Cleveland Institute of Art). Starting as the Western Reserve School of Design for Women in 1883, the school stressed the importance of art and design as an applied practice in industry. This gave women artists like Belle Hoffman the ability to train for occupations in which they could support themselves. Many of the early students of the Cleveland School went on to work in the commercial field as well as teach the next generation of artists at the school.


Day Job: The Working Artist | August 17–October 19

Recent Acquisitions: 2015-1018 | November 16–December 21


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