Aug 14, 201201:46 PMArts
Cincinnati's Painted History
Can you envision Cincinnati’s landscape 100 years ago – or maybe 200 years ago? Where most of the beloved buildings downtown now stand was once an uncharted and undeveloped natural landscape, littered with forests. Cincinnatians and travelers who lived in the past had a unique view of our city’s sights and sounds that was much different than the bustling cityscape we know today. “Treasures of the Past: Cincinnati’s Historic Art 1800-1930” exhibit at the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal, on display through August 5, give the public that perspective.
“Treasures of the Past” features both rarely and never before seen paintings, sculptures, furniture, and a variety of other works of art, mostly from the Cincinnati Museum Center’s private collection. Works document the city’s transition from the wilderness and frontier it once was to the bustling commerce it quickly became. Paintings depict Cincinnati pre-development when nature ruled supreme, to pieces from the early 1900s that showcase busy Fountain Square.
These artworks are literally a window into the past and minds of people who either lived or traveled through Cincinnati during its most transformational periods. Museum board members and sponsors such as David Husrauth and Phillip Long saw the value in the historical prospective the public can gain by viewing pieces directly related to their city’s rich history.
“One of the things that makes it particularly interesting is that most of the items have a link to the history of Cincinnati or regional history,” Hausrath says. “When someone views a painting, not only do they appreciate it as a fine work of art, but they can also appreciate the connection to Cincinnati history. It makes the art more relevant to people and that’s what makes this collection different than other art collections in the region or state. This one really does have a focus on the history of Cincinnati.”
Hausrath explains his favorite items in the collection incorporate a variety of artists and styles, which are all from different time periods. “Some of my favorites are (by an) artist by the name of Louis Charles Vogt. He was a painter in Cincinnati and trained at the Cincinnati Art Academy in the late 1800s. There’s a painting of Fountain Square in the collection that he did which is a wonderful impressionist painting. There’s also one of Mt. Adams Incline and the Chamber of Commerce building. They’re interesting works of art that have a connection to Cincinnati,” Hausrath explains. “There’s another artist that came through Cincinnati in the 1830s named John Caspar Wild. There’s a scene of the riverfront, scenes of Third and Fourth streets, and they’re just wonderful early portraits of the city.”
Most of the artworks had never been on view to the public; they were in storage at the Museum Center. Long helped with the beginnings of the exhibit, because he believed it was time for these works of art to be seen. “I have been on the Cincinnati Museum Center board for a few years and I felt as though the historic collections had not been given the distinction they had so long deserved, and I suggested doing something in order to show them to the public. Most of the items were gifts that had been donated or given to the museum over the years. The Cincinnati Museum Center has a large historical collection; one of the better historic collections in the country. I think this exhibit is another effort on behalf of Cincinnati’s cultural institutions to showcase the rich, cultural history this city has.”
Hausrath shares that sentiment, agreeing that these pieces needed to be put on view. “This is the first time a majority of these have been on public display and a first opportunity for people to see these works. I think people in Cincinnati have an interest in their history as well as art. A very positive aspect of the exhibit is getting people into the Cincinnati Museum Center and to have them see something they’ve never seen before or perhaps never knew existed. Art museums’ collections should be made viewable to the public, and I think this exhibit is a way of bringing this art to the public’s attention."
One of the important reasons that the exhibit is so intriguing is that it gives the viewer a direct window into the past of how others viewed the Queen City. “These are many of Cincinnati’s greatest artists,” Long explains. “As a result, you get to see their personal interpretation of the past. What better way to understand where you’re from than knowing the city’s past and history?”
You can visit “Treasures of the Past: Cincinnati’s Historic Art 1800-1930,” which runs through August 5 at the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal located at 1301 Western Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45203. You can reach them at 513.287.7000, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit their website at www.cincymuseum.org.
Written by Carly Behringer
Photography provided by Cincinnati Museum Center