Jon Berg Fine Art
JOHN RALPH SOWELL (1892-1965) Indiana regional art Ohio River painting

JOHN RALPH SOWELL (1892-1965) Indiana regional art Ohio River painting


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Directory: Fine Art: Paintings: Oil: N. America: American: Pre 1940: Item # 1445573
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Santa Monica, CA 90404
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A rarely seen example of Midwestern regionalist art: a vintage circa 1930's oil on canvas painting, 24" by 30" (30" by 33" framed), signed by Indiana-associated artist JOHN RALPH SOWELL (1892-1965). The extensive bird's eye landscape features the three bends in the Ohio River, as it passes by Hanover, Indiana, an old river town. An old hand-written label provides the location and title, "Ohio River from Hanover", and the artist's original asking price, $100 (a lot of money in the 1930's). The bluffs, buildings in the flatlands, and a smoking river boat create a very collectable painting that will require tender loving care restoration to bring it back to its original glory. There is a considerable amount of flaking paint, small hole, dirt, etc., as shown in the images. Yet the rarity of the subject matter, vintage age, etc. make it most interesting and worthy of restoration. The following information was taken from the net: Sowell was born in Buffalo Gap, Texas. He studied at the Art Academy of Cincinnati from 1922 through 1925, where he was instructed by Frank Harmon Myers (1899-1956), Herman Henry Wessel (1878-1969), and John Ellsworth Weiss (1892-1962). Sowell exhibited his work at the Cincinnati Art Museum as part of their “Annual Exhibition of American Art” in the years 1925 through 1927. In 1927 and 1928 he Sowell studied under Jean Despujols (1886-1965), who during those years was an instructor at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Fontainebleau near Paris. Here Sowell followed in the footsteps of Alfred Sisley, producing landscapes of the oft-painted village of Moret-sur-Loing. In 1929 Sowell became a faculty member at the Herron School of Art (later part of IUPUI) in Indianapolis, Indiana. He taught there through the spring of 1935, including the major upheaval in 1933 when the new director, Donald Mattison, fired nine of fifteen staff members, including the venerable William Forsyth. Around 1930 Sowell spent his summer vacation in the Rockport and Marblehead area of Massachusetts, painting seascapes and landscapes. He exhibited regularly while living and working in Indianapolis, including in November of 1933 a one-man show in Lyman’s Fireplace Gallery on Monument Circle, and more importantly, in April of 1935 a one-man show at the Herron Art Museum (later the Indianapolis Museum of Art). Following his employment at Herron, Sowell, like so many artists during the Depression (including his former co-worker, William Forsyth), produced paintings under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration. Three of these are still on display at the Central Library in Indianapolis. In the late 1930’s he lived for a time in the vicinity of Madison, Indiana, on the Ohio River (likely assisting us in dating this canvas). By 1938 Sowell had re-located to New Orleans, Louisiana, where he would remain for the rest of his life. As a professional artist, he also taught classes offered by the Art Association Guild, and continued to exhibit in local galleries, including the Delgado Museum of Art (later the New Orleans Museum of Art.) He was known for his watercolors, pastels, and portraits, including one of Louisiana’s governors. Sowell died March 30, 1965, at Charity Hospital in New Orleans. He is buried in the Saint Bernard Catholic Cemetery. ***MORE PHOTOS OF CONDITION ISSUES UPON REQUEST***