Harry Shokler, "The Pikeland Smithy", oil on canvas, 1921 - image 1 of 15

Harry Shokler (1896-1978), American
“The Pikeland Smithy”, 1921
oil on canvas, 20 in. x 16 in.
(framed dimensions: 26 ½ in. x 22 ½ in.)
signed lower right: “H Shokler 21”
inscribed on the canvas reverse “The Pikeland Smithy” and “HS”

This painting by Harry Shokler is from an earlier Impressionist period coinciding with his studies at the summer school of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) in the early 1920’s. It shows the influence of his teacher, the American Impressionist Daniel Garber who taught at the PAFA from 1909-1950. The painting’s high-key palette, its brushwork, interplay of light, shadow and form, and the inclusion of a large tree in the composition all bear comparison to Garber’s work. While Shokler later abandoned a strictly Impressionistic style, its legacy would be seen in many of his subsequent works, especially in his always subtle and sophisticated use of color. This painting also echoes the earlier (1889) Impressionist painting ‘Roadside Cottage’ by Dennis Miller Bunker in its use of a whitewashed building in bright sunlight with shadows cast by an adjacent tree.

Here, the young Shokler captures a sunny, hazy summer day in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania. He covers the canvas with individual strokes of paint using his filbert and flat brushes, delighting in Impressionist technique without losing form. A large, mature tree, its canopy a mass of varying greens, casts purple and blue shadows on the gable roof of the smithy. The shop doors are open, and we see someone inside, perhaps the blacksmith at work. A dusty dirt road in the foreground leads to an intersection just beyond the building. While the brass nameplate on the frame dates the painting as 1915, I believe the painting dates to 1921.

The Pikeland Smithy seems to have been a popular motif for students from the Chester Springs summer school to paint since it appears at various times in student exhibitions during the late teens and early 1920’s (see attached image). Hoang Tran, Director of Archives at the PAFA, was very helpful to me in researching for this painting. He found that Shokler exhibited 2 paintings in the 1921 Chester Springs exhibition, #64 ‘Faculty Building’ and #100 ‘Main Street: McKinleyville’. An 1897 photograph of the blacksmith shop places it at the intersection of Lionville and Kimberton Road (Route 113) and the Pikeland Road. The shop no longer exists, and the site is now occupied by Hallman’s General Store and gas station (see attached image).

The New York Herald-Tribune said of Shokler’s oil paintings: “Harry Shokler documents the slow-moving life of a country village and gives it a substantial reality and picturesqueness.” The New York Times noted that: “His work is quiet, unostentatious, possesses real feeling and combines a rather traditional approach with modern vigor and spirit.”

Harry Shokler was born in Cincinnati, Ohio to Russian immigrant parents. He declined an offer to work in his father’s furrier business, instead choosing to study art. Shokler studied at the Cincinnati Art Academy, the New York School of Fine and Applied Arts (later Parsons) and at the summer school of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts at Chester Springs. He studied under Herman Henry Wessel, Howard Everett Giles and Daniel Garber. During World War I, he served with the American Expeditionary Forces overseas. In the 1920’s he painted portraits of such notable figures as Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb. The artist was awarded a Freiburg Traveling Scholarship in 1929 which allowed him to travel to Paris to study at the Academie Colorossi. Shokler traveled extensively on this trip, painting at Concarneau on the Brittany coast, coming under the influence of landscape painter Jerome Blum. He also painted on the Cote d’Azur, lived for a year in Tunisia, where he met his wife, Dahris Martin, an American writer. He also visited Italy and Germany and then back to Paris where he had a solo exhibition of paintings at the Galerie de Marsan. That exhibition was a critical success. Art critic Georges Bal, writing for the Paris-New York Herald, was impressed by Shokler’s landscapes but particularly liked a picture titled ‘Dahris’:

“’Dahris’ shows the bust of a young woman with the light behind her and a landscape as background. The color is bright and warm and the face very expressive. The piece ought alone to call attention to the painter whose efforts deserve success.”

During the depression, Shokler worked on the Public Works of Art Project. He was a pioneer in the artistic use of silk screen printing and was a member of the experimental silk screen group which founded the Workshop School on East 10th Street in 1940. Shokler wrote the ‘Artists’ Manual for Silkscreen Printmaking’ (1946) which has gone through many printings and is still used today. Starting in 1934 he and his wife would spend part of the year in Londonderry, Vermont, where he taught oil painting for the Southern Vermont artists and became a fellow of the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Shokler lectured extensively on serigraphy and taught at Princeton University, Columbia University and the Brooklyn Museum School, among others.

Harry Shokler died in Vermont in 1978 after an automobile accident.

The artist was president of the National Serigraph Society, member of the Silk Screen Group, the American Color Print Society, the Artists League of America, the Southern Vermont Artists, the Miller Art Center, the Chagee Art Museum, the Chester Art Guild and the West River Artists.

He had over 50 one-man shows all over the country and exhibited at the Woman’s City Club (1920’s), the PAFA Exhibition of Summer Work Chester Springs (1921), the Society of Independent Artists (1926), the National Academy of Design (1943-1946), the San Francisco Museum of Art (1945), the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Library of Congress (1944-1945), the Paris Salon (1928), the PAFA Annual Exhibition (1930, 1936), the Northwest Printmakers (1944-1945), the southern Vermont Artists, the Dayton Art institute, the Chaffee Art Museum (1969 Award for Pigeon Cove), the Albany Print Biennial (award for Tunisian Coffee House), the Miller Art Center (award for West River in March), the Grand Central Art Galleries in New York (1970’s), the Fifteen Gallery, the Traxel Galleries in Cincinnati, the Schneider-Gabriel Galleries and Kennedy & Company in New York City.

His work is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Syracuse Museum of Fine Art, the Library of Congress, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Carnegie Institute, the Princeton Print Club, the Newark Museum, the Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, the Cincinnati Public Library and the Cleveland Museum of Art.


The painting is in excellent original condition. It is unlined and the stretchers appear original. There are no stretcher bar marks and the paint surface itself is in excellent condition – there are scattered areas of minute craquelure and a few spots of possible inpainting that fluoresce under UV light, which are confined to the clouds at upper left and a small area at the top of the canvas (I am limited to 15 photos here and am happy to provide extra photographs). There are two inscriptions on the reverse of the canvas, one with the title “The Pikeland Smithy”, the other what appears to be a cursive “HS”. There are two labels on the frame, one from the Clarke Galleries of Stowe, Vermont and the other from the collector James Pizzagalli, former Chairman of the Board of Trustees at the Shelburne Museum, Vermont. Additionally, there is an inscribed name on the bottom stretcher which I suspect is a former owner. The frame is a fine reeded and gilt model with minor scattered imperfections.

Beige, Blue, Green, Purple
American Paintings, Drawings & Sculpture
Canvas, Oil Paint
American Impressionism, American Impressionist, Landscape
Americana, Color
United States • American
Early 20th Century

John Quinlan Fine Art

Harry Shokler, "The Pikeland Smithy", oil on canvas, 1921


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