Theme/Style – Modernism, Surrealism, Abstraction, still life, landscapes, portraits
Media – Oil, watercolor, pastel, ink
Artistic Focus – Raphael Gleitsmann’s earlier works were idealized presentations of life in Middle America during the Great Depression in the Regionalist style, though some possessed an ominous quality that hinted at the underlying alienation and melancholy of the times. After his experiences in World War II, Gleitsmann focused on powerful post-Apocalyptic imagery which was well-received, but ultimately took its toll on his creative impulse and shortened his career as a skilled and provocative artist.
Career Highlights –
- Born in Dayton, Ohio in 1910, Raphael Gleitsmann moved to Akron with his family as a child. He was largely self-taught, his only formal training coming from his high school art class taught by respected local artist Katherine Calvin, along with guidance from artist Paul Travis, an instructor at the Cleveland School of Art.
- During the 1930s and 1940s Gleitsmann exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago; the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, PA; the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia; the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC; the Herron Art Museum in Indianapolis, IN; and in Ohio at the Akron Art Institute, the Dayton Art Institute, and the Butler Art Institute in Youngstown.
- In 1939, Gleitsmann’s painting The White Dam was exhibited at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, and in 1942-1943 Gleitsmann was included in The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Artists for Victory: An Exhibition of Contemporary American Art” in New York.
- Gleitsmann served as a combat engineer in Patton’s Third Army in World War II from 1943 to 1945. Wounded at the Rhine River, he received the Purple Heart, and returned to live in Akron. Gleitsmann’s art was radically changed by his experiences as a soldier, and he turned to abstracted, expressionistic renderings inspired by the death and desolation he saw in Europe.
- Gleitsmann received national recognition for his war-inspired paintings when he took first prize in the prestigious Carnegie Institute Invitational exhibition “Painting in the United States 1948.” Also in 1948, Gleitsmann had his first solo shows at the Macbeth Gallery in New York and the Akron Art Institute, and served as president of the Akron Society of Artists.
- In the early 1950s Gleitsmann continued to exhibit, including a second solo show at the Macbeth Gallery. He also taught at the Akron Art Institute, and held private art classes in his studio.
- After a brief sojourn in St. Petersburg, FL in pursuit of a “change of thought,” by 1956 Gleitsmann was back in Akron, teaching painting classes, serving on art show juries, and working as a framer and art restorer. He did not paint again after 1957, explaining that his war experiences had affected his outlook on life and art, and that “… I just found I really had nothing to say anymore.”
- In spite of this, Gleitsmann remained a highly-respected painter, and a retrospective exhibition of his oeuvre took place at the Butler Institute of American Art in 1971; and the exhibition “Early Works by Raphael Gleitsmann” was held at the Akron Art Museum in 1990.
- Gleitsmann passed away in Akron in 1995. In 1999, the Akron Art Museum presented a survey exhibition of Gleitsmann’s paintings entitled “Raphael Gleitsmann: Recent Acquisitions,” and in 1999 Gleitsmann’s watercolors were featured in the museum’s exhibition “Close to Home: Watercolors by William Sommer and Raphael Gleitsmann.”
- Gleitsmann’s works are in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Academy of Design, New York; the Cleveland Museum of Art; the Akron Art Museum; the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; the Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, and others.
Bibliographic references are available upon request.