Under The Boardwalk

Focal Point

Sep 12, 2007 at 2:06 pm

With September in full swing, Edward Potthast's Under the Boardwalk offers the chance to wax nostalgic about summer at Cincinnati Art Galleries downtown (through Sept. 29).

Potthast has positioned his viewers beneath the boardwalk in the cool blue shade, looking out onto a beach and the ocean waves beyond. Glaring afternoon sunlight warms a young couple nestled to the right and several figures wading and swimming in the water. The painting is one of Potthast's signature scenes of middle class Americans enjoying their leisure time.

A Cincinnati native who studied painting here and in Europe in the late 19th century, Potthast moved to New York City at age 39 to embark on a full-time painting career. His New York studio overlooked Central Park, which made it easy to paint people strolling, playing and relaxing in the park.

Because of the popularity of leisure scenes during his lifetime, Potthast made a good living as an artist. He worked constantly, even while on vacation — his favorite scenes, like "Under the Boardwalk," were painted during summer trips to the New England coast and Long Island, where he observed New Yorkers frolicking at seaside resorts that were all the rage during the early 20th century.

Potthast made these paintings on site from direct observation using wide, thick brushstrokes. In "Under the Boardwalk," he depicts frothy waves with white dabs of paint and swimsuits with blocks of bright color. He only suggested faces and other details, giving more importance to the quality of light and the composition of the scene, which is dynamically balanced by large shapes at the lower right and smaller forms at the top left.

FOCAL POINT turns a critical lens on a singular work of art. Through Focal Point we slow down, reflect on one work and provide a longer look.