Edward Henry Potthast (1857 - 1927)

Edward Henry Potthast (1857 - 1927)

An avid painter in his youth, Edward Henry Potthast began to study the fine arts at the McMicken School of Design at the young age of thirteen, and then followed the path of many other Cincinnati artists by studying under Frank Duveneck. He continued his education in Munich, Germany, between the years of 1882 and 1885, where he acquired his signature painterly brushstrokes and bold coloration, as was the mode of the city. A second trip abroad in 1887 brought him back to Munich, then to Paris, and finally to the informal artist colony at Grez-sur-Loing near the better-known town of Barbizon. Upon his return to Cincinnati, Potthast pursued work as a lithographer until he moved to New York in 1895 and accepted a position as an illustrator for Scribners and Century magazines.  A bachelor his entire life, Potthast purportedly was married to his career and painted incessantly in addition to these other modes of employment. Between 20 and 30 artist sketchbooks were recovered following his death, all of which include copious notations of the color, time and lighting of his subject matters.  

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Although Potthast experimented with tonalist style paintings for nearly thirty years after his return from France, by the 1890s he became well known for his impressionist scenes of the New England coast. Many of these were completed while working at the art colonies of Rockland and Ogunquit, Maine, as well as on the North Shore of Massachusetts, where Ferry Landing, Gloucester, was painted. Potthast had made his first visit to Gloucester in 1896 and continued to summer there for the next twenty-five years. His seashore scenes of Cape Ann from the nineteen-teens and twenties are among his most famed works, especially the delightful paintings of sunbathing figures which he began to create in 1915. The “smiling aspect of life” which Potthast depicted, touched his fellow artists and patrons alike, for his works were well received by the public.  One critic of a 1915 exhibition remarked that “E. H. Potthast has marvelous success with seaside sketches.  Six were shown and all sold within a few hours. They were very fresh in colour and spontaneous – fine snapshots in paint.” [i]

Potthast exhibited in over fifteen solo shows during his career, participating both locally and abroad, and was a member of nearly twenty art associations including the National Academy of Design and the American Watercolor Society.  Today his works are in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Boston Museum of Fine Art, the Cincinnati Art Museum, and the Brooklyn Institute, among others.

References: Falk, Who Was Who in American Art; “Edward Henry Potthast” by Patricia Jobe Pierce, International Fine Art Collector Vol. 1, 1990; Vose Galleries Artist Files “Comments on the Art of Edward H. Potthast”.  

[i] Contemporary Exhibitions of Modern Art by W. H. de B. Nelson.  International Studio, February 1915.

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