The late George Knaus was a person who was never without a drawing implement or paintbrush in his hand, according to his daughter, Sarah Knaus. George was an artist through-and-through, who recorded the details of the world around him all day, every day. After retiring from teaching art at the Kent School in Kent, Connecticut, he moved to the New Paltz area, where as he got older, his world narrowed, but you wouldn’t know it from his continued depictions of the landscape and people around him. Sarah says the family even has renderings by George of the ShopRite parking lot in the collection of drawings and paintings he left behind.
And what does a family do with a treasure trove like that? If you’re the Knaus family, you open the Knaus Gallery & Wine Bar at 76 Vineyard Avenue in Highland. Coming up on its first anniversary now, Sarah opened the business with one of her twin daughters, Nisa, to offer a comfortable environment where people can stop in and view George’s art in the company of current Hudson Valley artists.
The gallery has three rooms, with the front room usually set up as a traditional art gallery and the back rooms featuring art as well as a bar and cozy couches to lounge on. At this particular time, the front room is also hosting a holiday sale of gift items handmade by Hudson Valley artisans, including jewelry (Sarah’s work is included), wall hangings, handmade botanical soaps and pottery. Sarah’s sister, Lisa Knaus, manages the pottery studio at Garrison Art Center, so many of the artisans represented come from her circle and her own work takes pride of place in a nook of the gallery.
“Our goal is to offer a variety of items that all have a sense of individuality,” says Sarah. “Everything you’ll find is handmade.”
Works by George Knaus are present throughout the space — “We just wanted people to see and love the art the way we do,” his daughter says. In a time when so much of what art galleries show has more to do with political commentary than aesthetics, it’s refreshing to see “old school” techniques honored; lovely watercolors, evocative drawings and etchings that capture a moment in time.
A lifetime of George’s drawings, prints and paintings are accompanied by a number of framed and unframed works by contemporary local artists, including family members like Jennifer Knaus, represented by small prints of her egg tempera portraits of people sporting unusual headgear. The images are compelling little riffs on traditional art history portraiture, injecting humor and some absurdity into notions of traditional beauty.
Knaus Gallery highlights a different local artist every month. The next exhibit, “Breakfast of Champions,” will showcase photorealistic trompe l’oeil depictions of everyday breakfast foods like the bagel, painted in loving detail by Bud Lavery, a graphic designer who in recent years has returned to his roots as a painter. The show at Knaus Gallery will open Saturday, December 16 with a reception from 6-9 p.m. and will remain on view through January 28.
The wine bar offers a changing selection of at least ten varieties of wine by the glass or bottle — including sparkling and dessert wines — and a selection of bottled beers. A glass of wine runs between $8-$12 for the most part with most priced somewhere in the middle. A $6 glass of red, white or sparkling is also available as a daily special. Beer is priced between $4-$9 per bottle, with most at the $6 mark.
Sarah and her daughter, Nisa, both have restaurant backgrounds. Sarah tended bar at a number of local establishments prior to opening the business in Highland, and Nisa currently works at Garvan’s restaurant in New Paltz in addition to helping run the family business.
The wine bar offers a menu of cheeses, charcuterie and made-to-order salads. A roasted beet salad is topped with feta cheese, oranges and sunflower seeds, and the charcuterie plate includes a selection of sausages and cured meats served with house-made wine crackers, whole-grain mustard, cornichons and olives. The toasted cheese sandwich of the day is served with a cup of house-made vegan soup.
When asked if she considers the business to be more of a gallery that serves food or a wine bar that features art, Sarah says they give equal importance to both. “We want to create a place where people can come and relax, view the art, have a glass of wine and something to eat. A lot of people have told us they feel like they’re home when they’re here. And if any local artists are looking for a place to show, we’re always open to considering their work for a monthly show. We also can take individual pieces on consignment.”
And what would her father think about his work being introduced to a new audience? “He’d probably be worried for us about the difficulties of going into business,” Sarah says, “but I think he’d be happy.”
Knaus Gallery & Wine Bar is located at 76 Vineyard Ave. in Highland, next door to Underground Coffee & Ales in the hamlet. Hours are Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday from noon to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from noon to 10 p.m. More information is available by calling (845) 834-3144 or visit them on Facebook or https://www.knausgalleryandwinebar.com/.