Berks Art Show is Greshville Antiques' ‘calling card'

The Fish Hawk, an Earl Poole original watercolor.

The Annual Berks County Art Show will be held at Greshville Antiques and Fine Art on Sunday, Oct. 6 through Sunday, Oct. 13. The only show of its kind, this event has become the “calling card” for Greshville Antiques and Fine Art.

The show will feature approximately 100 museum quality antique paintings by the school of artists from Berks County working from 1850-1940, including portraits, landscapes, still lifes, wildlife, and genre scenes.

The last 12 months have provided a wide array of wonderful acquisitions for this year’s show. Just in the door in time for cataloguing for the show is a winsome chick painting by Matilda “Tillie” Spang (1871 - 1939). Tillie Spang, the daughter of Elizabeth and artist Frederick Spang (1834 - 1891), was an accomplished portrait painter, studying in Paris under the renowned French artist William Bouguereau. This adorable rendering of three chicks with an oyster shell is a prized extension of her talent and reflects the early influence of her father, who also included similar genre works in his 19th century oeuvre.

There is an impressive collection of paintings by Mary B. Leisz (1876 - 1935), in all sizes and subject matter, from miniature landscapes to a larger colorful oil painting of peonies that is sure to make one reminisce of these Memorial Day beauties. Mary Leisz was the protégé of the father of Berks County Art, Christopher Shearer (1846 - 1926), and mastered both watercolor and oil painting. She lived on the Shearer property where peonies grew abundantly. Leisz is primarily known for her “striking landscapes and chicken paintings”, but also painted still lifes and portraits.

Offered from the gallery’s private research library is SET # 1 of the highly regarded ornithological publication: the Bird Studies of Old Cape May by Witmer Stone. This edition, autographed by all of the illustrators (including the Berks County artists Earl Poole and Conrad Roland) and owned by the author himself, is considered the “Holy Grail” of the run of 1400 sets that were published. Amazingly, the original watercolor “The Fish Hawk” by Earl Poole that was used for a frontispiece in Volume 1 was rediscovered and now is reunited with Set #1. Earl Poole (1891 - 1972), a revered Berks County artist/ornithologist/naturalist, was a contemporary and close friend of Stone’s who illustrated many bird books including the Bird Studies of Old Cape May. An attendee and exhibitor at both the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Academy of the Natural Sciences, Poole’s original works are in high demand for their accurate, detailed, and pleasing representations of bird life throughout the world. Witmer Stone (1866 - 1930) was one of the great ornithologists of America and a renowned botanist. He served the Academy of the Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for over fifty years in many different capacities, eventually becoming the Director. Stone was also a founding father of the Delaware Valley Ornithological Society. Incredibly, this Society has painstakingly documented the location of many of the 1400 sets of Bird Studies of Old Cape May around the globe and a repository of the volumes and their owners can be found at their website www.dvoc.org/Publications/TrackingStone.htm. Together, these two birding giants left a legacy that is unmatched in their contributions to ornithology. It is a true delight that these pieces have been married back together after 80 years. This is a rare opportunity for a bird enthusiast or a collector of Earl Poole paintings and treasures to own a one of a kind piece of art and history.

Another gem from the gallery’s private collection is a fabulous hen and chick painting by Ben Austrian (1870 – 1921). Fetchingly portraying a watchful hen and her playful brood in the natural state of everyday life, this particular work is inscribed on the reverse, is in impeccable condition, and is surrounded by its outstanding original gold leaf frame. Ben Austrian was born in Reading in 1870 and although self taught, he mastered the realistic painting of feathers and fur, impressing art collectors and critics around the world. Entering midlife, Austrian shifted his interest to the softer poetic painting of tonalism. A number of his popular dramatic tonal landscapes, many having personal inscriptions, will be offered for sale in this show. These atmospheric intimate works are not only beautiful, but also add insight into the ongoing story of the esteemed connections Austrian made around the country during his lifetime.

This show will feature several works by Ralph Dunkelberger (1894 - 1965). Dunkelberger, born in Reading and a student of Christopher Shearer’s, went on to study at the Pennsylvania Museum of Industrial Art (now the Philadelphia Museum of Art). He is renowned as an illustrator and muralist. Included in the show are two recent acquisitions: a small and delicate watercolor of a building on the notable Moxon farm nestled in the Oley Valley in Berks County, and a large fabulous oil on canvas entitled “Pants Pocket Weather” portraying a fascinating snapshot of mid-20th century life on the sidewalks of Reading - interesting, comical, and engaging!

Along with more works by Earl Poole, Ben Austrian, and Ralph Dunkelberger, the show will also include works by other Berks County artists such as Christopher Shearer, Francis Devlan, John Raser, Frederick Spang, Charles Witman, and many more. As always, the show consists of new acquisitions, the gallery owner’s personal collection and existing inventory. All of the paintings are guaranteed as represented. Gallery staff are happy to offer their experience and knowledge in assisting collectors in acquiring the most appropriate works of art to fit their needs.

The Annual Berks County Art Show will be on display at Greshville Antiques and Fine Art, located on Route 562, near Boyertown. The gallery is located in an 18th century stone barn that was renovated several years ago by Kurt and Valerie Malmberg. The Malmbergs have been researching Berks County artists and their works for over 25 years. They are considered the leading authorities and appraisers of BERKS COUNTY ART™, assisting auction houses, institutions, appraisers, and collectors in evaluating and purchasing this rediscovered regional art.

Along with their collection of Berks County Art, the Malmbergs also specialize in other 19th and 20th century American and European art, and quality American clocks and furniture. The Malmbergs are members of several local and national antique and historical organizations, and participate in local lectures, shows, and charity appraisal days.

For more information on the Annual Berks County Art Show, please contact Valerie Malmberg at Greshville Antiques and Fine Art at 610-367-0076 or visit the website at www.greshvilleantiques.com.