Meet a Painting Legend



The late Howard Schroeder was an artist’s artist. He had obvious talent as a painter, but the more remarkable fact is that, from the time he arrived in Lewes in 1942 until he passed in 1995, he made a living solely by his art.

“When I get together with all my sisters and brothers, we kind of sit around and wonder how the heck he did that—stay true as an artist, raise six kids and send us all to college,” says John Schroeder, one of Howard’s four sons. “His legacy is a throwback to the artist who painted for the love of painting. I don’t know how much of that exists today—or if it can exist today.”

Howard Schroeder is a legend in local art. Over the decades he produced thousands of works—four or five a day, he told “CBS Sunday Morning” many years ago—and he experimented with subjects and styles in a way more cautious, commercially successful painters might never have dared to do. His dedication and adventuresome spirit made for a large and fascinating oeuvre.

You can see the full range of styles in a show at Applied Bank in Rehoboth Beach until June 11. It is the first major showing of his works since a retrospective at RAL more than 20 years ago, according to John Schroeder. All but three of the 52 works on display were lent by Howard’s children. The remainder came from Kevin Moore, a close family friend who, with John, published “Schroeder, A Man and His Art” several years ago.

John, a vice president for Applied Bank, curated the exhibition. It was, he says, a special experience. “I have the luxury of living in a house with a lot of my father’s work,” he says. “It’s nice to have him there, in all those paintings.”

Howard arrived at the former Fort Miles as a private in the Army in 1942. His official duties included laying mines in the Delaware Bay and producing paintings for officers’ quarters. One of his paintings, “Laying Mines in the Bay,” was published in LIFE in July of that year.

Lewes rooted deeply in his soul. After the war, he and his wife, Marian, opened The Art Age shop on Rehoboth Avenue, where they sold gifts, art supplies and his own paintings. Howard later helped found the Rehoboth Art League and began teaching at places like the RAL and Saint Andrew’s School.

The show is valuable for two reasons. One is the opportunity to see a Lewes and a Delmarva of another time. The other, more important reason is to experience that astonishing range of styles. Howard Schroeder painted portraits and self-portraits. He experimented with abstracts that range from Rothko-like color blocks to works approaching Asian calligraphy. His more representational works veer from Matisse-like displays of color to straight realism. In addition to painting scenes of Lewes and the Peninsula, he painted images of Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal. He worked in pen-and-ink, in watercolor, in acrylics and oils. No matter what he painted or sketched, Howard Schroeder did his level best to avoid being pigeonholed as one type of artist.

“To see the show, you’d think there were at least half a dozen artists because of all the different styles,” John says.

Perhaps most remarkable, Howard Schroeder never cared about fame. He painted purely for the love of it.

The beach is now full of artists of all kinds, but John wonders how many get their living solely through art. That ability should make Howard Schroeder an inspiration to those who get to know him through his work. It certainly made him one of the reasons the beaches have evolved into the sort of place where artists can be artists.

See the show at Applied Bank, Rehoboth (37012 Country Club Road, at Del. 1), from 8 a.m. till 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. As of May 22, the bank will also be open 8a.m.-5p.m. on Saturdays and 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays.

For Music Lovers

Saturday and Sunday bring two great concerts. The Wilmington Children’s Chorus offers its spring concert, “Coming Home: A Celebration of American Music,” on May 14 to showcase all of its various ensembles with a program of classical and traditional music, including works by Randall Thompson, Aaron Copland, George Gershwin and Moses Hogan. The show begins at 7 p.m. at First and Central Presbyterian Church, (1101 Market St., Wilmington). Admission ranges from free to $15. Buy them at wilmingtonchildrenschorus.org. On Sunday Delaware Valley Chorale will perform “Requiem” by Johannes Brahms. Led by Chorale director David Christopher and Delaware Symphony Orchestra conductor David Amado, the groups will present “Ein Deutsches Requiem” by Johannes Brahms and “Gloria” by Lee Hoiby. Guest soloists include baritone Grant Youngblood, soprano June Suh, and members of the McKean and Kennett Square high school choirs. The concert begins at 4 p.m. at Immanuel Church (2414 Pennsylvania Ave., Wilmington). Tickets are $10 to $25. To order, call 740-2410, or visit delawarevalleychorale.org.

Laugh Your Wig Off

It’s a tough call. You can see In The Spotlight winner Scott F. Mason as Dame Edna at live @ the baby grand on May 14 at 8 p.m. Named Dame Edna’s Honorary Understudy by the real Dame, Barry Humphries, Mason is one of the best celebrity impersonators in the country. The show is sure to put you in stitches.
Or, next door at The Grand, see “Whose Live Anyway,” featuring the uproarious improv of Ryan Stiles (“The Drew Carey Show” and “Two and a Half Men”), Greg Proops (“True Jackson—VP”), Chip Esten (“The Office” and “New Adventures of Old Christine”) and Jeff Davis (“Whose Line Is It Anyway?”). The show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $48-$59. Find them at TicketsAtTheGrand.org, or call 652-5577.

 

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