Nov 13, 2012

Viaduct at Sunset

Viaduct at Sunset

c. 1914

William Sommer

(American, 1867-1949)

Watercolor and gouache with graphite

Sheet: 28.3 x 36.4 cm (11 1/8 x 14 5/16 in.)

Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Theodor W. Braasch 1966.533



During the early 1910s, Sommer began painting imaginative works charged with brilliant Fauvist color. Although supporting himself as a professional lithographer, Sommer sought release from the crass materialism of the commercial world through the inventive, spiritual art he produced during almost every spare moment of free time. Many Cleveland artists were inspired by his rebellion against conventional taste. In 1915 the young Charles Burchfield made a special trip to visit Sommer at his home in the Cuyahoga Valley, the probable site depicted in this watercolor. The meeting was a decisive experience for Burchfield, who adopted Sommer’s attitude that, rather than copy nature, artists should explore dreams and the subconscious. It is no coincidence that radiant suns and moons, symbols of spiritual transcendence, permeate the paintings of both artists.

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