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.
Grabach is the author of a book on How to Draw the Human Figure, and there are a couple of monographs on his work that are available from used book sources.
Online image resources for Grabach’s work are somewhat scattered, but I’ve assembled what I can below.
3 Replies to “John Grabach”
Your post raises the question of how many regional “schools” of art have gone by, especially in the late 19th-early 20th century period, without notice. And what is the criteria for a “school of art” designation in art history?
Another excellent post, Charlie.
Whoa–thanks for this!
Thanks Charley, you have given me another artist to look at I had not heard of before. I love the Ashcan School and anything in the ‘spirit of’. Even with the internet it seems regional work is too often overlooked but not here on Lines and Colors of course.
The top image especially reminds me of the Ashcanist (can I phrase him that way?) George Bellows painting that is very similar.
I also see a lot of similar traits in The Regional California School or The California Scene painters of about the same time as this, many of those being the mid-century watercolorists who painted urban and urban development often with hints of social commentary of the time.
That to me shows the movement was nation wide but still specific to given regions. Love it!
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