Paintings of rich, rural scenes pay tribute to the grit and strength of Douglas Wiltraut’s subjects, their environments and their homes in a manner akin to Regionalism or the American scene painting movements of earlier eras. Here, romantic conceptions of farm and yard, child and worker are cast in dramatic sunlight with a quiet and reserved beauty. We see signs that Thomas Hart Benton has been here—and Winslow Homer and Andrew Wyeth, too. In the dappled sunlight we may think of Vermeer and perhaps of Velázquez, influences Wiltraut is quick to point out.
Nevertheless, the artist’s greatest inspirations, we see, lie far closer to house and home, and draw heavily on his own memories. Here he shares his inspiration for seven of his paintings.
Late Fall (egg tempera, 21×31)
“It was October and our daughter Laura had just gotten married. The next day my wife Beth collected this basket of pinecones from under our white pine tree to serve as a remembrance of the occasion.”
Double Barrel (watercolor, 28×38)
“My family used to gather for clam bakes in my aunt’s backyard, and these tubs were always filled with every kind of soda pop a kid could dream of. When I would go into the house I would see my uncle’s gun cabinets filled with his double-barrel shotguns, and this scene brought back all of those memories.”
Monk (drybrush watercolor, 37×57)
“This is a portrait of a metal sculptor that I know who came from a family of stone-cutters. Here he sits in front of a wall he could have built himself, almost meditating, looking every bit like one of the spiritual recluses that share his surname.”
Barely A Breeze (egg tempera, 36×48)
“While on a short drive through the country on a warm spring day, I happened upon this Amish buggy blanket airing out on a front porch line. The shadow across the blanket was spectacular, and I loved the movement of the fringes dancing in the air, which I aimed to capture in this painting.”
Bag of Pins (watercolor, 28x 21)
“I had seen many examples of these clothespin bags hanging in various backyards, but this particular one had everything—the clothes hanger, the shirt with its wonderful pattern, the pins—all of the elements needed for the ultimate bag of pins.”
Dry Spell (egg tempera, 24×34)
“The watering can to me is one of the most beautifully designed objects that you can find in a backyard, and I have painted them many times. This one sits behind the house waiting to be used during an extreme dry spell.”
Back for a Visit (watercolor, 32×26)
Wiltraut painted the same house featured in this painting more than 40 years ago. The home is located near his sister’s farm. “After a recent family outing at the farm, I took a short ride and loved how the side door of this house showed evidence of backyard engineering,” he says.
The president of the National Society of Painters in Casein & Acrylic, Douglas Wiltraut has received numerous awards, including the Butler Institute of American Art Award, Today’s Art Medal, Knickerbocker Gold and Silver Medals of Honor and the prestigious Ralph Fabri Medal. A signature member of several art societies, the artist lives with his wife Beth in Whitehall, Pennsylvania. He maintains a studio at the Banana Factory in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
To read the entire feature on Douglas Wiltraut, see the October 2009 issue of Watercolor Artist.
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