Raphael Gleitsmann (1910 – 1995) moved to Akron with his family when he was six years old. He was inspired by Paul Travis, artist and instructor at the Cleveland School of Art (now the Cleveland Institute of Art), who was part of the “Cleveland School” – a group of artists who painted in a realistic manner infused with elements of Cubism and other early twentieth century European styles. Gleitsmann also gained knowledge from Katharine Calvin, an art teacher at Central High School in Akron, who urged him to study art history and criticism. Although Gleitsmann received guidance from Travis and Calvin, he was essentially self-taught as an artist.
He began using oil paints and masonite board as his medium, and painted in a somewhat simplified, realistic manner. Many of his paintings from the 1930s depict idealized images of life in Middle America, reminiscent of the works of regionalist painters such as Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood. Some of Gleitsmann’s works hint at the troubled times of the Depression, with clouded skies, crow-haunted landscapes and ominous color schemes, suggesting a sense of alienation and melancholy characteristic of the works of American artist Edward Hopper.
Gleitsmann’s art was radically changed by his experiences as a soldier in World War II from 1943-1945. His realistic works were replaced by abstracted, expressionistic renderings inspired by the death and desolation he had seen in Europe. With this new style, Gleitsmann gained national recognition, reaching a peak with his first prize award at the prestigious Carnegie Museum Invitational in 1948.
This work, Winter Evening (c. 1932), is part of the permanent collection of the Akron Art Museum. It is displayed as part of #CelebrateOhioArts 2017.