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William Sommer (1867-1949)
Historic American Painting and Works on Paper

Born in Michigan, William Sommer spent a year studying art at the Royal Academy in Munich at the age of 23 (1890-1891). After living in New York on his return from Europe, he settled in Cleveland in 1907, where he was employed as a lithographer. In Cleveland, he became acquainted with Henry Keller, an influential teacher at the Cleveland School of Art, and with William Zorach, who was a student there. In 1913, Sommer visited the Armory Show in New York.

As one of the first artists in Ohio to embrace early modernism, Sommers' work was well-known for his highly personal imagery in the 1910s and 1920s. Equally skilled in watercolor and in oil, his work of this period demonstrates familiarity with Cubism, Fauvism, as well as with the psychologically-charged German Expressionist movement. Not being a mere follower, Sommer melded these trends into a personal interpretation and unique vision. Characteristic of this period are his high-keyed hues charged into cool tones, and his manipulated and distorted forms of shifting color planes which seem to become one with the space that envelopes them.

Sommers' work can be found in major permanent museum collections, including the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Columbus Museum of Art, and the Akron Art Museum.

Selected Permanent Collections:

Akron Art Museum, Ohio
Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio
Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois
The Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York
Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio
Cincinnati Art Museum, Ohio
Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio
Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio
Fogg Museum of Art, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Missouri-Columbia
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Portland Art Museum, Oregon
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

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, 34, 125-126.

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