Theresa Hinchy Grau (1908-1997) was born April 8, 1908 in Buffalo, New York and was a student of the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy. Among the subjects studied was costume design, for which her entry was awarded a prize by the School of Fine Arts in 1930. From 1932-40 she was an instructor with the Art Institute of Buffalo, teaching antique drawing, life drawing and anatomy. Throughout this time period, numerous awards, newspaper articles and photos appeared recognizing her accomplishments in still life oil painting as well as drawing.
From 1952-1984 Theresa exhibited regularly as a member with Buffalo Society of Artists (BSA), Batavia Society of Artists, and Williamsville Art Society of Artists. For three decades beginning in 1964, the Fine Arts League granted many awards for her entries, including four Gold Medals in 1967, 1970, 1974 and 1978. One woman shows were held in the Lancaster Library during the late 1960’s and early 70’s which were very well received.
Theresa’s realistic paintings and graphite drawings were exhibited with the likes of well known contemporaries such as Mildred Green, James Schaffer, Robert and Jeannette Blair. Today this body of work of varied still life compositions displays a mastery of proportion, color and value which remains timeless.
My mother the artist
From a young age she was a keen observer of life and nature. She loved the water and took me on many rides on the Crystal Beach boat and others as I was growing up. She was a fine sculptor in her youth but settled on painting after marriage. Early on she did some fine watercolors but finally settled in on oil and china painting.
Very much a realist, she still moved objects on the canvas to aid composition and perspective. She prided herself on her realistic use of color and often mixed two or three or more colors together until she achieved the exact shade and intensity she was seeking. She was very interested in the play of light on her subject and sometimes worked for several hours over successive days to portray the effect of light from her north studio window on a shiny object, such as a vase. This gave such subjects a three dimensional effect.
When she painted flowers she would work feverishly for hours to capture petal shapes and colors before the flowers wilted. She loved painting old barns, and preserved many on canvas before the plague of development, time and weathering destroyed them. She had no use for the houses which replaced them and the open spaces they commanded. She had a fine sense for antiques and along with my father, collected many.
Theresa Hinchy Grau
Having had polio as a child, she developed a life-long battle with pain, but she never let it get her down. Her favorite Bible verse was, “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it”. She was a “make lemonade when the world gives you lemons” kind of a person.
She was a woman of dignity and grace, a real ‘lady’. She had a warmth and approachability, though she was a bit shy too. She had a steady, almost iron will – a hard worker. She lived with love and integrity. She was a loving and nurturing mother and wife and though she loved her art, family came first, always. She lived in the moment, devoting herself fully to important tasks. More than once she became absorbed in her studio work and a kitchen pot boiled over.
She often helped her husband, Wilson prepare for his prize-winning soapstone sculptures. She taught at Buffalo Art Institute, and also gave occasional private art instructions. She was enthusiastic about other artists’ work, and never stopped learning her craft, never settling for mediocre results. Theresa was a fine cook, pie-maker, and seamstress, making everything from doll outfits to draperies for her windows. She appreciated all the arts, and often listened to classical music. She was an avid reader, especially of mysteries and of artist magazines. We greatly miss her in our lives now.
-Kandace Grau, daughter-in-law