William J. Schwanekamp

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William J. Schwanekamp (American, 1893-1970) artist, etcher, printmaker, painter, designer and lecturer best known for his ‘Buffalo Alley’ series of etchings done in the early 1920's-early 1930’s, and of aging buildings, market scenes and landscapes. He was a prominent member of the Buffalo Print Club and served as president in 1953. Of all the Buffalo Print Club members, there were only three artists who truly stood out above the rest in the field of printmaking, Kevin O’Callahan (American, 1902-1977) who was perhaps the finest printmaker, along with master draughtsman, Niels Yde Andersen (Danish-American, 1888-1952) and William J. Schwanekamp. A few of Schwanekamp’s etchings were even offered through the Buffalo Print Club’s subscription of prints; “Pickard Alley, Coon Town, Buffalo, 1933” (1936), and “Booth Alley, No. 2, Buffalo, NY, 1936” (1943).

In a letter to Schwanekamp from the artist Charles Ephraim Burchfield (American, 1893-1967) in regards to his Buffalo Alley series of etchings he wrote, “Now I have a particular ‘excuse’ to write and that is your alley etchings. I like them very much. If you were here I would slap you on the back & say ‘attaboy’. Seriously, I am enthusiastic about not only the way you handled them but the very fact that you do them. They are Buffalo to the core—not just vaguely American but expressive of the one particular city. As you say what need to run abroad for hackneyed subjects? A man’s material is at his doorstep or should be, and you are proving it.”[1]

As a young man, Schwanekamp worked as a sign painter and earned enough money to study at the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy under Ernest George Fosbery (Canadian, 1874-1960). Schwanekamp later studied at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts under Philip Leslie Hale (American, 1865-1931), William McGregor Paxton (American, 1969-1941) and W. James (Unknown, -), and earned his tuition by lettering boats in the Boston harbor. After schooling he retuned to Buffalo, NY in 1915.

Beginning in 1910 he was also an active member in the Saturday Sketch Club out of Spring Brook, NY. Other notable Buffalo artists in the Saturday Sketch Club were life-long friends J.J. Lankes (American, 1884-1960) who founded the Club in 1910, Edgar Kowalski (American, 1891-1968), and the well known instructor of the Buffalo Arts Guild School Ernest George Fosbery (Canadian, 1874-1960) who taught there twice a week, among several others. In addition, Schwanekamp was also a member of the Buffalo Society of Artists and served as President from 1939-41, the Artists Guild of Buffalo, the Patteran Society, the Arts Club of Buffalo and served as Secretary in 1916, the American Artists Professional League, and the Northwest Printmakers.

For many years beginning circa 1919, Schwanekamp worked for the well known international advertising agency Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn (BBDO, previously Barton, Durstine and Osborn) out of their Buffalo, NY, office and later became their production manager and art director. His office was located in downtown Buffalo and the city inspired many of the subjects for his prints. He also maintained a summer home in Cowlesville, NY. Schwanekamp retired in 1958 and lived in Eggertsville, NY until his death in 1970.

“Today, Schwanekamp’s prints are looked upon as historical documents as much as they are appreciated for their aesthetic value. Many of the alleys no longer exist. By current standards the prints exhibit American Realist qualities that call up strains of social criticism; however, Schwanekamp found a picturesque beauty in his subjects that he wanted to share in elegantly drawn etchings.”[2]

Artist Statement:

“Art must bear a message and the message must be convened in a manner simple and direct. There is beauty in volume and solid form but the final results are not achieved by exaggeration but by simplification.”[3] -William J. Schwanekamp


Schwanekamp’s Alley Series Included:

1. “Graham Alley” (1922)
2. “Bean Alley” (1924)
3. “Keep Alley” (1925)
4. “Centre Alley” (1926, AKA “Center Alley”)
5. “Kremlin Alley” (1926)
6. “Booth Alley” (1927)
7. “Codlin Alley” (1930)
8. “Jackson Alley” (1930)
9. “Burton Alley” (c1930)
10. “Utley Alley” (1931)
11. “Pickard Alley” (1933)


Chronology:

1893- Born, August 27, Buffalo, NY.

1910- Became a member of the Saturday Sketch Club, Spring Brook, NY.

1911- 1911- February18-26, exhibited, group show, “1st Exhibition of Outdoor Paintings”, 130 sketches shown including landscapes, cloudscapes, marine scenes, winterscapes, cityviews and figurative work, Buffalo Camera Club (Elmwood Ave. & West Utica St.), Buffalo, NY. After receiving numerous desirable applications for membership in the early part of 1911, the Saturday Sketch Club considered updating their constitution to allow the change in the clause limiting membership. December 9-18, exhibited, group show, “2nd Exhibition of Outdoor Paintings”, 125 paintings shown including landscapes, cloudscapes, marine scenes, winterscapes, cityviews and figurative work, Buffalo Camera Club (Elmwood Ave. & West Utica St.), Buffalo, NY.

Circa 1911-1915- Studied at the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy under Ernest George Fosbery (Canadian, 1874-1960) who also taught twice a week at the Saturday Sketch Club, Spring Brook, NY. Schwanekamp continued his studies at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts under Philip Leslie Hale (American, 1865-1931), William McGregor Paxton (American, 1969-1941) and W. James (Unknown, -), and earned his tuition by lettering boats in the Boston harbor.

1913- October 12-21, exhibited, group show, “3rd Exhibition of Outdoor Paintings”, in the rooms of the Buffalo Camera Club, Buffalo, NY.

1915- Returned to Buffalo, NY.

1916- Served as Secretary of the Arts Club of Buffalo, Buffalo, NY, and was residing at 60 Brooklyn Avenue, Buffalo, NY. Exhibited, summer, group show, “First Exhibit”, 59 pieces of paintings and sculpture by the Arts Club were shown, Broderick Galleries, Buffalo Arts Club, Buffalo, NY.

Circa 1919- Began working for the well known international advertising firm Barton, Durstine and Osborn (BDO, later known in 1928 as Batten, Barton, Durstine, and Osborn [BBDO]), at their offices in Buffalo, NY, working for them for many years and later became their production manager and art director. Exhibited, spring, group show, “21st Annual Exhibition by the Buffalo Society of Artists”, seven pictures by Schwanekamp were shown, Buffalo, NY. Exhibited, December, group show, (Prize, Honorable Mention), Iroquois Hotel, Buffalo, NY.

1922- Exhibited, group show, “The Seventh Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Bookplates”, which comprised of 222 designs for bookplates by 75 different artists with all entries limited to designs done in 1921, National Arts Club, NYC.

1924- Exhibited, February-March, group show, “An Exhibition of Etchings: Under the Management of the Chicago Society of Etchers”, one etching shown “November”, The Art Institute of Chicago, IL. By this time Schwanekamp was residing at 76 Springville Road in Eggerstville, NY. Exhibited, April, group show, “The Second Annual Exhibition of the Buffalo Salon of Independent Artists”, the Browning King & Company building, 570 Main Street, Buffalo, NY.

1925- Exhibited, January-March, group show, “An Exhibition of Etchings: Under the Management of the Chicago Society of Etchers”, one Schwanekamp etching shown “Pleasant Valley Saloon”, The Art Institute of Chicago, IL.

1930- Nov.-Dec., exhibited, group show, "Commemorating the Twenty-fifth Anniversary of the Opening of the Albright Art Gallery", The Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, twenty-five etchings by Schwanekamp were shown to include many of his famous 'Alley Series' of etchings, Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY.

1933- Exhibited, Albright Art Gallery (now the Albright-Knox Art Gallery), Buffalo, NY.

1934- June 1-Nov. 1, exhibited, group international show, "International Exhibition of Contemporary Prints For A Century of Progress", one of Schwanekamp's alley series of etchings was shown "Negro Shacks, [Pickard Alley] Buffalo, New York" (No. 373 in show), The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL.

1938- Exhibited, spring, group show, “The Second National Print Show of the Buffalo Print Club”, Buffalo Print Club, 259 prints shown from 118 different artists in 3 galleries, with 30 contributions by 10 Club members, Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY. Exhibited, Albright Art Gallery (Prize), Buffalo, NY. Exhibited, group show, “The Great Lakes Art Exhibition”, a watercolor by Schwanekamp was shown titled “After Rain (Eggerstville, NY)”, Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, NY.

1939-41- Was President of the Buffalo Society of Artists, Buffalo, NY.

1940- January, gave a lecture titled “Art at Work”, while working as the Art Director for Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn, sponsored by the Advertising Club of Syracuse, held at the Syracuse Museum of Fine Arts, Syracuse, NY.

1945- November-December, exhibited, group show, The Patteran Society at Denton Cottier & Daniels Pianos & Organs store, "Booth Alley #1 (Buffalo)" etching shown, 32 Court Street, Buffalo, NY.

1953- Became President of the Buffalo Print Club, Buffalo, NY.

1958- Retired, Eggertsville, NY.

1960- Exhibited, summer, etchings shown, (unknown location), Buffalo, NY. Sept.-Nov, exhibited, solo show, "Buffalo Alleys", from his famous 'Buffalo Alley Series' of etchings executed in the 1920's-30's were shown (11 in all were shown), presented by Jane D. Van Arsdale (1905-1980) at the Grosvenor Library, Lobby Foyer, Buffalo, NY.

1970- Died, January 25, at the age of 76 years old, Eggerstville, NY. March, exhibited, posthumous solo show, 12 etchings from his famous 'Buffalo Alley Series' executed in the 1920's-30's were shown (12 in all were shown), presented by Jane D. Van Arsdale (1905-1980) in the main exhibit area of the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, Buffalo, NY.

1988- Fall, exhibited, group show, “Kevin B. O’Callahan and The Buffalo Print Club”, Burchfield Art Center, ten Schwanekamp etchings were shown, “Along the Towpath” (#4, 1930), “Autumn” (1923), “Booth Alley” (#12, 1922), “Booth Alley” (#2, 1927), “Centre Alley” (#1, 1926), “Chippewa Market” (#7, 1923), “Jackson Alley, Buffalo” (AKA “Snow and Shacks”, 1930), “Keep Alley” (undated), “Kremlin Alley” (#1, 1926), and “Pickard Alley” (#1, 1933), Buffalo, NY.

2001- Exhibited, retrospective show, “William J. Schwanekamp Lanes and Alleys”, etchings and graphite on paper pieces shown, Daemon College, Fanette Goldman/Carolyn Greenfield Gallery, Duns Scotus Hall, 4380 Main Street, Buffalo, NY.

2003- Spring, Retrospective group exhibition, “The Buffalo Print Club”, 72 prints by 7 former Buffalo Print Club members (William J. Schwanekamp, Kevin B. O’Callahan, Niels Yde Andersen, Carlo Nisita, Rixford U. Jennings, Dr. Julius Richter, and Jack Stewart), with four etchings shown by Schwanekamp “Keep Alley” (1925), “Cowlesville, N.Y. Xmas 1927”, untitled-‘Winter Road’ (Xmas 1937), and an untitled-‘Buffalo Alley’ (1922), from the print collection of the Estate of Rodger Sweetland, Meibohm Fine Arts, Inc., East Aurora, NY. Exhibited, fall, group show, “On The Barwalls: Invisible Archives Vol. 4: 120 Years of Landscape, Selections from the Collection of Gerald Mead, Part 2”, Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center, Buffalo, NY.

2004-2005- December 14-July 6, exhibited, group show, “The Art of Printmaking”, at The M&T Center in Downtown Buffalo, curated by the Burchfield-Penney Art Center, some of Schwanekamp’s alley series etchings were shown, Buffalo, NY.

2006- Exhibited, spring/summer, group show, “Think Ink: Prints from the Burchfield-Penney’s Collection”, curator Peter Sowiski, Burchfield-Penney Art Center, Buffalo State College, Buffalo, NY.

Memberships: Buffalo Society of Artists (President, 1939-41), Buffalo, NY; Artists Guild, Buffalo, NY; Buffalo Print Club (President, 1953), Albright Art Gallery (basement, later at Kevin B. O’Callahan’s home circa 1940 at 620 Niagara Street, Buffalo, NY), Buffalo, NY; Patteran Society, Buffalo, NY; American Artists Professional League, NYC; Arts Club of Buffalo (Secretary, 1916), 71 West Tupper Street, Buffalo, NY; Northwest Printmakers; Saturday Sketch Club, Spring Brook, NY.

Awards: Group show, (Prize, Honorable Mention), Iroquois Hotel, Buffalo, NY; Western New York Annual, (Prize, 1935), Buffalo, NY; Albright Art Gallery (Prize, 1938), Buffalo, NY.

Collections: Library of Congress, Permanent Collection, three etchings “Booth Alley, no.2, Buffalo, NY” (1943), “Winter” (1935), and “Pickard Alley, Coon Town, Buffalo” (1936), purchased in 1936 (the first from the Buffalo Print Club through the Pennell Fund, named after the American printmaker Joseph Pennell [1857-1926]), Washington, DC; Albright Knox Art Gallery, Permanent Collection, Buffalo, NY; Buffalo Print Club, Buffalo, NY; University of Richmond Museums, Joel and Lila Harnett Museum of Art, Permanent Collection, Richmond, VA.

Galleries: Meibohm Fine Arts, Inc., East Aurora, NY.

For additional information on this artist or for other possible examples of his works, please visit the AskArt link

(Rewritten in parts & compiled chronologically by Mark Strong of Meibohm Fine Arts, Inc., meibohmfinearts.com, East Aurora, NY, sources: Too long to list here and are furnished upon request.)
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