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Avery Galleries

Arthur Meltzer

Mystic Island, Connecticut

Signed lower right: -Arthur Meltzer '27-

13 x 14 inches (33 x 35.6 cm)


“I try to put a mirror up to nature so that others can appreciate the beauty that the artist sees. There is so much beauty around us everywhere.”

- Arthur Meltzer

A prominent member of the last generation of New Hope painters, Arthur Meltzer was a renowned teacher and successful landscape and still life painter. He received his initial artistic training at the Minneapolis School of Fine Arts before enlisting with the army during World War I, and later attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts on the advice of friend and fellow artist Kenneth Bates. Meltzer studied under Daniel Garber, Hugh Breckenridge, Philip Leslie Hale, and Joseph Pearson, eventually choosing Pennsylvania as his permanent home. During the early part of the 20th century, many artists were influenced by Grant Wood’s enthusiasm to paint what was familiar. As both an academic and professional artist, Meltzer was clearly aware of these trends, and chose to join the last generation of Pennsylvania Impressionists.

Meltzer was selected for the Cresson Traveling Scholarship for European Study in his second year at the academy, and in 1922, he left for Europe with the other winners, which included Bates and Carl Lawless, another lifelong friend. The group toured England and France (where Bostonian William M. Paxton would join them) and trekked through Switzerland and Germany on their way to Italy. During their stays in these countries, which involved museum visits and plenty of sketching, Meltzer would often explore on his own, taking full advantage of the limited four-month duration of his time abroad.

Upon his return home, Meltzer and his fellow Bucks County, Pennsylvania, artists diverged from French Impressionism, creating instead a rugged and uniquely “American” Impressionism. Like many artists of the earlier generation, Meltzer’s landscapes became nationalistic statements, glorifying his homeland with authentic depictions of his surroundings. With many 20th century artists turning to modernism, Meltzer clung to the Pennsylvania tradition and followed the teachings of the Pennsylvania Academy, working from direct observation without beautifying or idealizing his subjects. In his third year at the academy, seeking additional sources of material for his landscapes, he passed the summer months in the Pennsylvania Dutch area as well as the artists’ colony at Mystic, Connecticut. He continued to spend many summers at the latter after completing his formal training, having befriended the colony’s founder Charles H. Davis, and often painting with Carl Lawless, who made Mystic his permanent in 1925. Known for his landscapes and still lifes devoid of decorative brushwork, Meltzer’s Mystic Island, Connecticut, painted in 1927, is rendered in the style of the American Scene painters. He adeptly depicts the Connecticut coast and town of Mystic in quick, straightforward strokes, managing to simultaneously simplify the landscape and enrich the natural beauty around him.

Meltzer exhibited his work nationally at important venues of the time, such as the National Academy of Design, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and had a solo exhibition at Macbeth Galleries in New York in 1929 featuring landscapes of Pennsylvania and Mystic. His wife and fellow artist Paulette van Roekens was often at his side, both painting and teaching, as both enjoyed decades-long careers as instructors at the Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia. The works created by both Arthur and Paulette exemplify artists aware of the current trends in American art, but not afraid to take these themes in new directions, a point offered by Drew Saunders in an article published in 1985, four years before Arthur’s passing: “The alienating, explosive, shocking qualities of much of the twentieth century art are not unknown to the Meltzers.…Art is noblest when it is aware of the total experience of life yet chooses to transform its meaning into positive, life-affirming expressions. Such is the legacy of the Pennsylvania School – such is the artistic expression of the Meltzers.”1 Meltzer had painted for nearly seventy years when he died at the age of 95, and both he and Paulette are remembered for their diversity of subjects as well as their consummate mastery of oil painting.

Arthur Meltzer earned numerous accolades over the course of his painting career and the esteem and respect of his students and fellow artists. Today his work is in the collections of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Moore College of Art and Design, the James A. Michener Art Museum, and the Woodmere Art Museum, which held a retrospective exhibition of his paintings in 1983.

1 Drew Saunders, Western Art Digest, “The Meltzers: The Legacy Lives On,” Nov/Dec. 1985