By Amanda Koehn
A contemporary reference to the Renaissance era, vivid color and an ode to local landmarks all come together in Anthony Eterovich’s “Cleveland Renaissance Visitors.” While viewers may be able to easily picture themselves at the location depicted in downtown Cleveland, there’s an obvious historic and out-of-place aspect of the painting that offers a witty perspective on both the artistic era and historic hotel that share a name.
Eterovich (1916-2011), a Cleveland artist whose work spanned several styles over his career, was known for his magical realism – incorporating both realistic and fantasy elements, which are captured in “Cleveland Renaissance Visitors.” On view at the Massillon Museum through Sept. 26 as part of “A Thrilling Act: The Artwork of Anthony Eterovich” exhibition, the museum’s executive director Alexandra Nicholis Coon shared her interpretation of the painting and how it fits into the local artist’s repertoire and history.
CANVAS: What makes this piece noteworthy? What stands out to you and what should viewers note when they see it?
NICHOLIS COON: This painting combines multiple elements that characterized Eterovich’s artwork and exploration of media and styles over the course of his long and accomplished career. The scenery and landmark building reflect his love of Cleveland, where he called home all his life. The photorealistic treatment is in sharp contrast to abstracted artwork from his earlier periods, which are also included in the exhibition to illustrate both his versatility and ability to seek inspiration in every facet of life.
A hallmark of Eterovich’s paintings is his sense of humor and marriage of seemingly disparate elements. For example, in this painting, we see landmarks familiar to Northeast Ohioans as belonging to Public Square. The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument sits to the left, adjacent to the historic Renaissance Cleveland Hotel. Passersby at the bottom left are contemporary to the period during which Eterovich painted this, while another figure is anachronistic to the scene. A man in the foreground at bottom right seems to be a literal manifestation of the painting’s title, pulled from the Renaissance era and deposited into the painting as though through a time machine. This subtle device is a common thread throughout the exhibition and keeps viewers looking for additional clues and ways to engage with the artist’s diverse interests. It may also be a nod to Eterovich’s love of theater and literature.
CANVAS: What is notable about the process or medium the artist used?
NICHOLIS COON: Eterovich was primarily a painter. Many artists of his era also experimented with printmaking and other media, and while he certainly tried his hand at many artistic facets, he steadfastly held to painting and drawing as his primary interpretive devices. Eterovich studied at the Cleveland School of Art (currently the Cleveland Institute of Art) and later taught evening and summer classes there. His exposure to the arts via his academic career, later his experience teaching high school in the public school system, his marriage to skilled dancer and choreographer Alice Eterovich, and frequent visits to New York City museums and galleries provided him endless sources of inspiration and opportunities to be surrounded by art and artists.
CANVAS: How does this piece fit into the artist’s larger body of work? Where was he in his career when it was created?
NICHOLIS COON: Nearly 70 years worth of Eterovich’s artwork and creative endeavors are represented in this exhibition. He was in his 70s when this painting was created and had retired from teaching high school, but he had only started experimenting with this more realistic style of painting about a decade earlier. He would return to a looser handling of the paint in years following “Cleveland Renaissance Visitors.”
CANVAS: Where can viewers see it?
NICHOLIS COON: Viewers can see the painting through Sept. 26 in the Aultman Health Foundation Gallery on the main level of the Massillon Museum. It is part of the “A Thrilling Act: The Artwork of Anthony Eterovich” exhibition. A website created specifically for this exhibition can be found at artofanthonyeterovich.org, and the painting is visible there also.
“Cleveland Renaissance Visitors”
Artist: Anthony Eterovich
Details: Created in 1990, oil on canvas, 40 x 50 inches. Collection of the Anthony Eterovich Estate, photo courtesy of the Massillon Museum.
Find it: “Cleveland Renaissance Visitors” is on view at the Massillon Museum’s Aultman Health Foundation Gallery in “A Thrilling Act: The Artwork of Anthony Eterovich” exhibition through Sept. 26.