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Jon Schueler: Weathering Skies

August 5 – October 23, 2016

Organized by the Jon Schueler Estate and the Arkansas Arts Center

“The sky holds all things,” said Abstract Expressionist painter Jon Schueler (1916-1992). The twenty-five watercolors by Schueler in this exhibition are abstract, yet they are all about the evocative power of the sky. As the artist stated, “I’m deeply, almost dreadfully, concerned with nature.”

Schueler’s fascination with the heavens began long before he was a painter, when he was the navigator for a B-17 bomber during World War II. The sky became a place fraught with anxiety and yet incredibly beautiful and meaningful. Only after the war did Schueler train as an artist at the California School of the Fine Arts, but during the war a friend told him about the dramatic skies of Scotland. The artist said, “In 1942 the Scottish vision started, and through the many following years of pain and dream and folly it grew until in 1957 I found myself living in the powerful, sea-opened valley of Mallaig Vaig where I merged my fantasy with the mystical Sound of Sleat and the sky and [the Isle of] Skye beyond.” The second-generation Abstract Expressionist filled vast canvases with sky-based abstractions.

In 1967, while waiting for access to a proper art studio, Schueler was obliged to work in a small room in a shack on the Isle of Skye. There was no space to make his usual large oil paintings. He recalled, “with so small a place I felt I could not work. I painted watercolor after watercolor, a medium I had never used before; I painted in frustration complaining each and every day.” Yet, once he was back working in the United States, the artist saw in his watercolors, “These were the work and the storm of my second Scottish period, and were perhaps among the most important work I have done. . . It would be enough for one man’s life to return to Skye, to ever look and work and try to understand.”

When he returned to Chester, Connecticut, in the autumn of 1967, Schueler continued creating powerful watercolor abstractions inspired by his vision of the unquiet sky over the Sound of Sleat. This exhibition features watercolors made in Scotland and in Connecticut between 1967 and 1969. All but one of the watercolors in the exhibition is from the Schueler Estate. The remaining work, Weathering Skies, is a previously unexhibited work in collection of the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation.

Featured Works from the Exhibition

Weathering Skies, August 6, 1967, watercolor on paper, 22 x 30 in., Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of the Stonehill Family, New York. 2010.010

Winter Storm, 1968, watercolor on paper, 5 ¼ x 6 ¾ in., Jon Schueler Estate, New York, New York

Woman in Color, I, 1968, watercolor on paper, 20 ½ x 15 ½ in. Jon Schueler Estate, New York, New York

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