HENRY GEORGE KELLER (1869 - 1949)
Henry George Keller was a very influential modernist American painter of the early twentieth century. Henry Keller first studied art at the unlikely institution of the Western Reserve School of Design for Women, in 1887. Unable to find a teaching position in Cleveland he worked for eight years at the Morgan lithograph Company designing circus posters. In 1899 Keller resumed his artistic education in Germany and studied at the art academies of Munich and Dusseldorf. His art received a silver medal at the 1902 Munich Kunstakademie exhibition. He returned to Cleveland in 1903 to begin teaching as an instructor of watercolor at the Cleveland School of Art. Keller also created his own informal school at his family home in Berlin Heights, Ohio, during the summers of 1903 through to 1914. As a teacher of watercolor and drawing techniques, Keller's influence was vast. Some of his most important pupils from this period include Charles Burchfield, Paul Travis and Frank Wilcox. Beginning around 1910, Henry Keller championed the cause of modern art, both in his drawings and paintings and through his lectures and writings. In 1913 he exhibited two of his paintings at the now famous New York Armory Show, which introduced modern art to America. During the following years, Keller's art was included in major exhibitions at such institutions as the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Art Institute of Chicago and at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
In his watercolors and other drawings Henry Keller was a tireless experimenter. Working quickly with sure and spontaneous strokes he was inspired by the avant-garde art of Matisse, Cezanne and others as well as the rhythmic lines of Chinese brush painting. One author writes: "Keller's approach to watercolor was significantly influenced by his admiration for the economical brushwork, simplified forms, and rhythmic movement he observed in Chinese scroll paintings".
In 1936 Charles Burchfield, who after studying with Keller made watercolor his principal medium, commented: 'Some of his [Keller's] best work has been done in transparent watercolor. In many of them he shows the influence of the Chinese, whom he has always admired and studied, not in any imitative manner, but in the fundamental sense that he has learned to say a great deal with economy of means and little apparent effort. This is the genesis of the art of Henry Keller. In this amazing pen and ink drawing which is so simple and yet so true in its construction, one can surely agree that Keller had "learned to say a great deal with economy of means and little apparent effort".