The discovery of a hidden treasure in this town’s art history is something to celebrate, especially when the institution exhibiting the rediscovery — the Woodstock Artists Association & Museum — is doing so at the start of its second hundred years.
Otto Bierhals: A German-American Artist in Woodstock — curated by art historian Bruce Weber and set to fill WAAM’s Phoebe and Belmont Towbin Wing, with an opening 4 p.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, February 1 and running through May 10 — is the artist’s first solo show since 1938, featuring 40 works that span the German-born painter’s growth from a young art student through his years of modest critical and sales success, during which he and his artist wife Agnes lived in Northern New Jersey for most of each year, but spent over 20 summers in Woodstock, most of them in a home on Mill Hill Road where Mud Club bagel shope now exists.
“Otto Bierhals, [is] a painter who uses so heavy an impasto that the forms in his pictures give the impression of having been sculpted in pigment. This method lends vitality to the skin of the picture and where, as in this case, the color is pure, it adds to the brilliancy of the general effect,” Weber quotes a New York Times review of a Bierhals exhibit from 1921.
“He uses pigment more than forcibly, laying it on, we suspect, as often with a palette knife as with a brush,” added a review of the same show in the New York Tribune. “But instead of being heavy-handed and coarse, as is so often the case in such circumstances, he carries off his rather violent mode in a skillful and likeable manner.”
Many of the works capture Woodstock as a rural town, with haying scenes, a brilliant landscape that feels akin to the artist’s native Bavaria, plenty of winter, and a particularly evocative depiction of the town’s blacksmith at work in his shop just up the road from Bierhals’ home (and later gallery/school), where Maria’s Bazar is now.
It promises to be an eye-opener of a show…especially in tandem with the other exhibits opening at the Artists Association & Museum galleries on February 1, the first of this 2020 season and bound to be celebratory. Among them: “Fresh Snow: Recent Work,” designed to draw hibernating artists out of their workspaces to show off what they’ve been working on, with “fresh” defined as being of the last five years. And a Solo Gallery/Members Wall showing of self-chosen works by five WAAM Active Members: Tracy Phillips, Karen Whitman, Stewart Schuenemann, Julia Santos Solomon and 95-year old Dot Chast.
The openings all take place 4 p.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, February 1, at the WAAM galleries, 28 Tinker Street, just off the Village Green. Expect large and lively crowds. For further information, see woodstockart.org or call 679-2940.