Stored away in the Gardiner Art Collection is a watercolor and ink painting about a foot by a foot and a half by Cleveland artist William Sommer. The painting is small and simple, but the colors really make it stand out. The colors are reminiscent of Matisse or Cézanne but the subject matter is a landscape, just a few buildings, trees and clouds behind a fence in the distance. The style is that of classic Midwestern art but the colors could have come from any German Expressionist work in the early 1900s.
William Sommer is best known as a Cleveland artist. It was there that he was employed as a lithographer after returning to the states from a year at the Royal Academy in Munich. In Munich, Sommer encountered German Expressionism and the work of early modernist artists circulating around Europe in 1890. Sommer was very interested in spreading modernism in the United States and even created a group, the Kokoon Arts Club, to promote modern art in Cleveland. By the 1920s, Sommer had developed his own style with flat, patterned sections that drew inspiration from Matisse. He worked primarily in watercolors, as in Landscape with Buildings from 1936. This painting of blue-green fields and buildings with little red roofs is just waiting to be seen again.
Kelsey Willis was a student in ART 3683: History of 20th Century Art during the fall of 2010.