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UC's Fine Arts Collection

Fine Arts

by Mary Niehaus

The daydreaming lady in Elizabeth Nourse's painting has been gazing at her shimmering goldfish for nearly a hundred years. Lovely Venus, in a matchbox-sized Renaissance engraving, just can't stop washing her tiny toes. And Philip Goodwin's bucking bronc is still trying to throw the spunky cowboy who mounted up early in the 1900s.

Where can you meet these enduring characters? Not in Paris' venerable Louvre, New York's neoclassical Metropolitan or Spain's ultra-contemporary Guggenheim Bilbao. They are among the 4,000-plus originals in the University of Cincinnati's Fine Arts Collection, a mix that includes internationally acclaimed paintings, drawings, photographs and sculptures, plus Pre-Columbian figures, Grecian urns, Rookwood pottery, decorative arts and furniture.

To view part of the UC collection is easy; to see it all is nearly impossible. Strolling across campus, visitors cannot help but notice the growing number of contemporary sculptures that appear as new buildings rise. Thirst might draw them to the Rookwood water fountains in Old Chem or Procter Hall. And serendipity could lead them to portraits, landscapes and three-dimensional art objects in university offices and libraries.

Works by Cincinnati artists are a strength of the university's art collection, especially those produced in the late 19th and early 20th century. A few of the important painters represented are Frank Duveneck, James Roy Hopkins, Lewis Henry Meakin, Dixie Selden, Louis Charles (L.C.) Vogt and Herman Henry Wessel.

"And everyone knows Elizabeth Nourse," says UC fine arts manager Anne Timpano. "One of the most spectacular pieces in our collection is her gorgeous pastel, ‘Study for La Mere.' The Cincinnati Art Museum owns the original oil painting ‘La Mere,' for which the study was done, but UC has 31 Nourse works.

"We may own more of her work than anyone else," Timpano adds, which seems appropriate considering that the Cincinnati native began her art studies at the McMicken School of Design, followed by more study in New York and Paris.

Unfortunately, scores of UC artworks are in storage, undergoing restoration or on loan to other institutions. Borrowing and lending fine art is a common practice, but it can cause confusion.

"We own an immense portrait of Nicholas Longworth by 19th-century black painter Robert Duncanson, which will be a focal piece of the Cincinnati Art Museum's new Cincinnati wing in May," says Timpano. "It is our most published painting.

"However, a few years ago, after I had written about the portrait in a catalog, a caller scolded me for trying to claim that painting as ours. The woman said she knew it belonged to the art museum because it had been on display there for many years. Well, yes, it had been there for many years — on loan from the university."

Though the university created a centralized oversight for its growing art collection in 1967, manager Anne Timpano believes that lack of a dedicated gallery has kept the artworks from being more widely known and appreciated. That will change when the UC Fine Arts Collection Gallery opens in 2004 or '05 at 646 Main St., downtown, in a building currently being renovated. Many of the best pieces in the university collection -- except those permanently affixed to campus walls, of course -- will be on display at that time.

"An entirely different audience soon will be able to see the collection," Timpano says. "The artworks won't be tucked away, hidden in offices, as many are now. More people will be able to appreciate them and learn from them.


"Not only will the new gallery give our collection more visibility -- and perhaps help it to grow -- it will provide the university another positive way of interacting with the community on a daily basis."


"A dedicated gallery has been a dream of mine ever since I first set foot on campus, nine years ago," she adds. "It will be good for our collection, good for the university and good for the community."



Examples from Cincinnati's "Golden Age" (1830-1938) excel in the university's art collection, including more than 30 by its most famous female painter, Elizabeth Nourse. "La Reverie (Les Poissons Rouges)," a bequest of Walter Schmidt, shows the influence of French Impressionism on her later career. The Mount Healthy native studied briefly in Paris and became quite successful with her paintings of French working-class people. She began art studies at the McMicken School of Design.

Guy Wiggins "Brooklyn Bridge in Winter"

A perfect example of Guy Wiggins' impressionistic snow scenes of New York City is the UC Fine Arts Collection's "Brooklyn Bridge in Winter," a gift of W.T.S. Johnson. The youngest American artist to have his work purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Wiggins was so captivated by the snow-covered urban landscape that he often used his friends' offices or apartments as temporary painting studios. Brooklyn's famous bridge was designed by John Roebling, who also designed Cincinnati's suspension bridge.

Philip Russell Goodwin "Bronco Buster"

"Bronco Buster"
was painted before 1920 by Philip Russell Goodwin, a popular illustrator for The Saturday Evening Post and Jack London's "Call of the Wild." He sold his first work to Collier's when he was just 11 years old. (Gift of the Kemper-Thomas Co.) Researchers interested in historic materials about the American West can find color images, maps, text and bibliography in searchable databases published by UC's Digital Press.

John Hauser's "Above the Timber Line"



One of the newest gifts to the Fine Arts Collection is "Above the Timber Line" by Cincinnati artist John Hauser. He began making annual trips west to paint Native Americans in 1891, the year he was hired to teach drawing in the Cincinnati public schools. His sympathy and friendship earned the affection of the Sioux, who adopted the artist and his wife into their nation, naming them "Straight White Shield" and "Bring Us Sweets." Hauser studied at the Ohio Mechanic's Institute, McMicken Art School and in Europe.



A fine example of a Greek red-figure Calyx Krater, a vessel made for mixing wine and water, this artifact from about 475 B.C. is currently on loan to the Cincinnati Art Museum. Triangular shapes within the decorative figures indicate that the artist is one known as the Berlin Painter. (Gift to UC from the Obediah Wilson Family.)

Albrecht Altdorfer "Venus After the Bath"



Between 1520-26, German Renaissance painter and printmaker Albrecht Altdorfer created "Venus After the Bath," a tiny engraving on laid paper. (Gift of Eleanor and William Mitchell.)




Captured in pastel on paper, Elizabeth Nourse's "Study for La Mere" (c. 1913) preceded "La Mere," an oil painting now in the Cincinnati Art Museum collection. (Bequest to UC by Walter Schmidt.)

Kate Reno Miller "View of Cincinnati"




Painted between 1913 and '33, "View of Cincinnati" is an example of work by Kate Reno Miller, an Illinois native who studied at the Art Academy under Frank Duveneck and taught there for more than 25 years. (Gift to UC from the Varsity Art Club.)

Robert Duncanson "Nicholas Longworth"



Robert Duncanson was an important black artist who worked extensively in the Cincinnati area. His portrait of local merchant-horticulturist Nicholas Longworth once hung in the Taft Museum, a former Longworth residence. Dated 1858, this painting from the UC collection travelled around the country a few years ago in a retrospective exhibit of Duncanson’s work and is currently on loan to the Cincinnati Art Museum.


A previously unpublished
painting from the UC Fine Arts Collection, Lewis Henry Meakin’s “Road and Orchard Near Moret-sur-Loing” reflects the Impressionist’s enthusiasm for natural scenic beauty. The preeminent landscape artist of Cincinnati’s “Golden Age” (1830-1938), Meakin studied at UC’s McMicken School of Design and at Germany’s Royal Academy before teaching at the Art Academy of Cincinnati. This 44-by-58-inch canvas, dated 1895, is a gift of the Meakin Family.


One of several
large works by Lewis Henry Meakin in the UC collection, “Sunset” was painted before 1917. Influenced by the Impressionist movement, Meakin became known not only as the preeminent landscape painter in Cincinnati, but also as one of the country’s best. He began his art studies at UC’s McMicken School of Design. (Gift of the Meakin Family.)

Emil Carlsen's "Moncour"


Emil Carlsen’s 1884 painting, “Moncour.” The artist had the ability to draw the viewer into his painting’s reflective mood. Carlsen trained as an architect in his native Denmark, turning to fine art after immigrating to America.