Growing up in Delaware and living for many years in southeastern Pennsylvania, I’ve become familiar with most of the historic regional schools of painting from this part of the eastern seaboard, like the Brandywine School, the New Hope School (otherwise known as the Pennsylvania Impressionists), the Hudson River School, the Ashcan School and others in New York and Boston.
But I was in Lambertville, New Jersey over the weekend, and in talking to Beverly Alverson, a consultant at the Union Gallery, I learned of a regional school of which I was unaware, the Newark School of Painting, a small group of painters centered on the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Arts (which closed in 1997).
Prominent among those painters were Henry Gasser, Adolf Konrad and John R. Grabach.
Like Gasser, who was his student, Grabach painted in the spirit of the Ashcan School, depicting the gritty everyday reality of workers and tenement life in Newark and New York in a brusque, rough-hewn style much in keeping with his subject matter.
In many of his compositions, Grabach skews perspective and arranges the complexity of cityscapes into strongly geometric formations, giving a sensation of unbalance that suggests the clamor and bustle of city streets.
He also depicted scenes of sailors, ships and docks, as well as painting figurative works.
Online image resources for Grabach’s work are somewhat scattered, but I’ve assembled what I can below.