art for everyone. every monday morning.

Henry G. Keller • Ohio: 1870-1949

May Morning In The ZooWatercolor on Paper 19 3/4” x 13 5/8”

Abel Warshawsky was watching his painting ripped to shreds. The scene at Cleveland’s exclusive Rowfant Club could not nave been any more painful for a young painter recently returned from Paris filled with avant garde ideas about art. As Warshawsky recalled in, “Memories of an American Impressionist,” a jury of Cleveland’s intellectual elite were determined not to allow such a “crude and anarchic” painting into their show.

Then a single juror rose from his seat.

Hernry Keller was tired of in-the-box thinking that surrounded Clevelanders with “pale, timid, watered Impressionism, “ so he threatened to quit his position on the Club’s management committee. He railed at the other jurors who preferred the same-old, same-old to bold modernists like Warshawsky.

Keller won. Warshawsky’s picture hung.

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Henry Keller was the first artist in Ohio to achieve distinction in watercolor, so his works have a natural fit at the Canton Museum of Art. But his most valuable contribution to the area was the gift of modernism. An avid student of Cezanne and Henri Matisse, who he viewed as bridges from Impressionism to Modernism, Keller developed a unique style that combined European and Asian modernism. Cyclamen neatly fits that vein.  

During his four decades as a beloved instructor at the Cleveland Institute of Art, Keller taught his innovative technique for blending watercolors with tempura and became Cleveland’s most outspoken modernist. Yet, this thoroughly modern man located his summer school in Berlin, Ohio, smack in the middle of the largest Amish population in the world.

The son of German immigrants and an inveterate world traveler, Keller had a special place in his heart for Cleveland, where he wished to be buried on the “Cleveland Heights.” He was, but not before three generations of Cleveland painters rode his coattails from the past to the future.

Canton Museum of Art Permanent Collection • Gift of Ralph L. Wilson, 71.33


4 Ways to Sound Smart When Viewing at The Canton Museum of Art

“Henry Keller was so anxious to see the world, he was born on a ship carrying his immigrant parents from Germany to America.”

“He is the co-author of a groundbreaking scientific study of the effects different colors have on people’s minds.”

“A dedicated modernist, Keller nevertheless had a summer art school in Berlin, Ohio, right in the middle of the world’s largest Amish community. That must have been a sight.”

“He was one of the most celebrated teachers ever at the Cleveland Institute of Art where he taught for over 40 years.”


Keller Timeline. Scroll over images to see timeline.