Honoring Our Past Masters: The Golden Age of Cleveland Art, 1900-1945

August Biehle, Study for Great Lakes Exposition Mural, 1936. Image courtesy Gary and Rosalyn Bombei. Photography by Barbara Merritt Photography


Honoring Our Past Masters: The Golden Age of Cleveland Art, 1900-1945

Open December 4, 2021 to April 4, 2022

Max Kalish, The Glass Blower, 1937, Image courtesy of Paul R. Keen and Denise Horstman


This ambitious showing of Cleveland Art is staged in partnership with the Department of Art History and Art, College of Arts and Sciences, CWRU, and Cleveland Arts Prize which is engaged in a year-long celebration of Cleveland’s “Past Masters” in the years before 1961, when Cleveland Arts Prize began giving its annual awards.

In the period of enormous civic growth, from 1900 to 1945, Cleveland supported a community of some 6,000 artists, many of whom produced work of national significance, such as Margaret Bourke-White, the famed journalist-photographer, and Viktor Schreckengost, creator of the Jazz Bowl–widely regarded as the single greatest masterwork of American Art Deco.

In this period Cleveland was a powerhouse of painting, sculpture, ceramics, poster design, fashion design, and industrial design; established a major art school and art museum; held an annual May Show of regional art; held a free-spirited annual arts festival, the Kokoon Club ball; and was the home base of Henry Luce’s publishing empire, and the home of Fortune, Life, and Time Magazine.

The exhibition will spotlight the achievement of Cleveland’s most remarkable artists from this period, some internationally famous, some still relatively little known, including August Biehle, Margaret Bourke-White, Charles Burchfield, Clarence Carter, Clara Deike, Carl Frederick Gaertner, Raphael Gleitsman, Joseph Jicha, Max Kalish, Henry Keller, William Lescaze (artist and architect), Roy Lichtenstein, James Harley Minter, Elmer Ladislaw Novotny, Hugo Robus, Charles Sallee, Don Schreckengost, Viktor Schreckengost, Huey Lee Smith, William Sommer, Rolf Stoll, Paul Travis, Abel Warshawsky, and Frank Wilcox.

More than simply an art exhibition, this project provides an opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the cultural achievements of Cleveland, and to reflect on the best course for the city’s future.

Honoring Our Past Masters: The Golden Age of Cleveland Art, 1900-1945 opens at the Cleveland History Center, headquarters of the Western Reserve Historical Society, with an opening event on December 4, 2021.

Frank Nelson Wilcox, Train on Horseshoe Curve, Norfolk Southern Railway’s Pittsburgh Line. Image courtesy WOLFS Gallery


A Celebration of Music & Art by Cleveland’s Past Masters!

Cleveland History Center

Opening Reception & Concert: Saturday, December 4th

Doors: 1pm

Concert: 1:30 – 2:30pm

(Norton Gallery)

Exhibition Introduction by Henry Adams: 2:30pm

(Gallery 2)

 Hay-McKinney Mansion Self guided Tours: 1 – 4pm


Please join us at the opening reception for a concert featuring Cleveland Orchestra members Isabel Trautwein (CAP 2012), Alicia Koelz, and Katherine Bormann (violins) Tanya Ell (cello), Robert Woolfrey (Clarinet) with Eric Wong (viola, Cavani Quartet) and Yann Chemali (cello) in Music for Strings and Clarinet by five of Cleveland’s Past Master Composers. Two of which studied with Dvořák; Charlie Rychlik, whose soulful Duet for Violin & Viola kicks off the concert, traded English lessons in preparation for what became the Czech master’s historic sojourn in America. J. S. Zamecnik, went on to become the most sought-after composer of silent film music. Johann Beck’s long-lost 1888 string sextet, in its day called “the foremost composition of its kind yet written by an American,” was found in Cleveland Public Library’s Special Collections. Douglas Moore won immortality with his hit opera The Ballad of Baby Doe; and Ernest Bloch, who was also the first director of the Cleveland Institute of Music, achieved international fame as a major composer whose works have been recorded by Leonard Bernstein and Mstislav Rostropovich.

Curator and art historian Henry Adams will headline the concert with a special introduction to the Exhibition and the Hay-McKinney Mansion ~ decorated for the holidays ~ will be open for self guided tours throughout the afternoon.

The Exhibition runs from December 4 – April 4, 2022 and is open to the public with admission to the Cleveland History Center, free for the opening reception. Tickets are required for the concert. Light refreshments will be served.


COVID-19 Policy: Please bring proof of vaccination and/or a negative COVID-19 test within 48 hours. Masks will be required. 

Abel Warshawsky, Autumn Glory, Image courtesy Gary and Rosalyn Bombei. Photography by Barbara Merritt Photography


Planning Your Visit to the Cleveland History Center

The Cleveland History Center, in University Circle, is open Thursdays, 12:00 pm to 8:00 pm and Friday-Sunday 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. Please note that Visitor Guidelines, public hours, and museum operations are subject to change. Updates will be posted to the website and on Facebook @clestartshere.