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Edward Henry Potthast (American, 1857-1927)


Also known as:  Potthast, Edward H.

Birth Place: Cincinnati (Hamilton county, Ohio, United States)

Beloved by audiences from the nineteenth century through the present for his vibrant, sunlit depictions of carefree beachgoers enjoying leisurely holidays on the coast, Edward Potthast is considered one of the most prominent of the American Impressionists. Born in Cincinnati, which was at the time a burgeoning art center and a hub for German immigrants including his own family, Potthast relocated to New York in 1892 and began spending his summers frequenting various seaside art colonies including Gloucester, Rockport and Cape Cod in Massachusetts, and Ogunquit and Monhegan Island in Maine. He was so captivated by the coast that while living in Manhattan he would regularly journey to the city's crowded beach resorts of Coney Island or Brighton Beach with his easel, panels, and paint box.

Potthast began his artistic studies at the McMicken School of Design and at the Cincinnati Academy. The young artist made his first trip to Europe in 1881, where he traveled to Antwerp and then to Munich, whose Royal Academy had long been a draw for Cincinnati artists. Upon returning to his native city in 1885, Potthast became established as a lithographer and illustrator while resuming his art studies. His paintings of this period reflect the influence of the Munich School, steeped in the venerated tradition of Dutch Old Master painting.

In 1886, Potthast again departed for Paris, where he became well acquainted with the light-filled, expressive canvasses being produced by both French and American expatriate Impressionists. It was at this time that the Impressionists' techniques and aesthetic began to dominate Potthast's work. The artist returned to Cincinnati with several luminous canvases. After moving to New York in 1892, Potthast embraced American leisure activity as his central subject, specializing in beach scenes and rocky harbor views painted in a high-keyed palette and bathed in warm summer light.

The paintings of Edward Henry Potthast are represented in public collections across the United States, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York; Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio; Art Institute of Chicago; Cincinnati Art Museum; Georgia Museum of Art, Athens; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia.

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