Edward Henry Potthast


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Painter and illustrator. His reputation rests primarily on bright, freely brushed renditions of carefree leisure moments, particularly beach scenes, dating from the early twentieth century. He also painted landscapes observed under diverse conditions of illumination, including moonlight, as well as portraits, genre scenes, and nudes. Indebted to impressionism's sparkle, his mature style accents loose, painterly application of clear, vivid hues. A Cincinnati native, from his teenage years Potthast worked as a lithographer and illustrator. He relinquished these pursuits in favor of painting full time only as he approached forty. Intermittently until 1887 he pursued formal art training at the McMicken School of Design (now the Art Academy of Cincinnati). In 1882 he departed for Europe, where he remained for about three years. After a sojourn in Antwerp, he settled in Munich, where he picked up the fluent, dark-toned approach popular there. During a second period abroad, from 1887 to 1889 or 1890, he worked in Paris and the nearby countryside. Depicting a barefoot peasant girl picking flowers, Sunshine (Cincinnati Art Museum, 1889) combines a solidly constructed figure with the feathery brushwork, light tonality, and broken colors of impressionism. In the mid-1890s Potthast left Cincinnati for New York, where he soon specialized in the more spontaneous effects and overtly modern subjects of his best-known work. Children playing at water's edge in A Holiday (Art Institute of Chicago, 1915) enact a tableau of joyous innocence. Despite the apparent informality of its composition, carefully arranged forms and hues discipline its sensuous brushwork and freshly appealing chromatic touches. Potthast often recorded activities observed in Central Park, but on the beaches of Long Island he found the relatively intimate scale and intense sunlight that particularly suited his interests. Less convincingly, during these years he also painted scenes of the West, particularly the Grand Canyon, and a few late figural allegories. He died in his New York studio.

Subjects: Art.

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