Edward Henry Potthast (1857-1927)
Historic American Painting and Works on Paper
Potthast was a Cincinnati painter who became successful in New York, as had his friend Robert Blum a decade earlier. His training was extensive. He studied in Cincinnati with Frank Duveneck and Thomas S. Noble; in Antwerp and Munich at the Royal Academy; and in Paris at the Academie Julian with Gustave Boulanger and Jule-Joseph Lefebvre (1884 and 1887-1890).
After thorough study in Cincinnati, New York, Munich, and Paris, Potthast moved to Manhattan in 1896, where he augmented his income by providing lively illustrations for Harper's, Scribner's, and Century Magazine. In New York, Potthast became famous for his heavily impastoed figural beach compositions. Not afraid of color, he had adopted the high-key palette of French Impressionism and was particularly adept at orchestrating it for vivid decorative effect.
This is particularly true in the series of dazzling beach scenes that he executed between 1910 and 1920. Artist at the Beach (ca. 1915-1920) is an example of Potthast's ability to carefully observe and organize a complex matrix of moving figures while capturing the heat, color, and light of a specific moment at the beach. Potthast's beach scenes are strikingly effective in conveying a palpably hot, raking, afternoon light.
Potthast was adept in more than one medium. In addition to mastering oil, he contributed a series of surely drawn works in graphite, a body of spontaneous watercolors, and a group of actively scumbled works in crayon that shimmer with light. These successful paintings and works on paper were produced during his frequent visits to his favorite summer haunts in Gloucester, and Provincetown, Massachusetts, and Maine. He counted among his friends Robert Blum, John H. Twachtman, Frank Duveneck, Henry Farny. During his lifetime, Potthast's work was shown frequently and widely at home and abroad: New York, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Chicago, St. Louis, Washington, D.C.
Selected Permanent Collections:
Addison Gallery of American Art, Massachusetts
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo
Art Institute of Chicago
Boston Museum of Fine Arts
Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio
Cincinnati Art Museum
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.
Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts
Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago
Source: James M. Keny and Nannette V. Maciejunes, Triumph of Color and Light: Ohio Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, exh. cat., Columbus Museum of Art, 1994, 25, 120-121.
See also: Edward H. Potthast NA 1857-1927, exh. cat., Washington, D.C., Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1973; James M. Keny, "Into the Light: The Art of Edward Potthast," Timeline (April-May 1991); and Karl J. Moehl, Edward Henry Potthast, exh. cat., Peoria, Illinois, Peoria Art Guild of Lakeview Center for the Arts and Sciences, 1967.