Bucks County Herald

Largest exhibition of well-loved Bucks artist continues at Michener

JODI SPIEGEL ARTHUR



“Old Mill, Neshaminy Creek” is one of George Sotter’s nocturnes in Bucks County.

“I love to work on artists who are under-known, and I think Sotter falls into that category,” Valerie Ann Leeds, guest curator of “George Sotter: Light and Shadow,” told a group touring the exhibition.

The show, which continues through Dec. 31, at the Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, is the largest survey of Sotter’s work.

“He’s known as an artist of winter nocturnes,” Leeds said. “He really turned out to be an artist of greater dimension.”

In addition to Sotter’s nocturnes, the exhibition includes his tranquil marines and sunlit landscapes, and introduces his work as a stained-glass artist.

A Pittsburgh native who moved to Bucks County in 1919, Sotter (1879-1953) had a dual career – as a stained glass artist and as a painter, said Leeds, a Stockton, N.J., resident.

Part of the New Hope art colony and the Pennsylvania Impressionist movement, Sotter painted in a mixture of styles that also included realism, she said.

While the Michener is the largest repository of Sotter’s works, others are owned by what Leeds called “an enthusiastic group of collectors.”

“He’s a much beloved artist,” she said. “People collect his work avidly, and it’s because of this that we were able to put on this exhibition.”

The show is divided by subject and features works Sotter created in Pittsburgh, paintings brought to life in his summer studio in Gloucester, Mass., nocturnes from Bucks County and more.

Sotter and his wife, Alice Bennett, also a stained-glass artist and painter, had no children. That, and the fact that there are not many letters from Sotter made learning about him challenge for Leeds.

“We’re really relying on the works as a determinant of who he (was),” she said. “Sotter seemed to like to start work very small and then work in increasingly larger sizes.”

Leeds said she assumed that was a method of working that he learned from his experience with stained glass.

Sotter attended church as a child and was “transfixed” by the colors in the stained glass, Leeds said.

“He was an ecclesiastical stained-glass artist and extremely religious Catholic,” she said, adding, “There may be religious undertones to his cloudscapes. They’re kind of ethereal.”

After studying at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia from 1901 to 1902, Sotter studied with Edward Redfield – who became a lifelong friend – in Bucks County.

After working in Pittsburgh in the stained glass studio of Horace Rudy and teaching at Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon University) for nearly 10 years, Sotter moved to Bucks County in 1919. Bucks County scenes then superceded all other subjects, Leeds said.

“He was very interested in palate and light, and as an outgrowth of that, the seasons,” she said.

In Bucks County, Leeds said, Sotter gained an increasing number of stained-glass commissions and so maintained a dual career.

His nocturnes, she said, increased in darkness. “He started working in twilight,” Leeds said, “and seemed to go darker and darker.”

The exhibition will be complemented by curator talks and a guest lecture. For details, visit MichenerArtMuseum.org. A catalogue is available for purchase in the Museum Shop.

Visit MichenerArtMuseum.org or call 215-340-9800.

jarthur@buckscountyherald.com

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