Recognizing the Life's Work of a Cleveland Teacher and Artist

Jul 28, 2016

The wit, whimsy, and infectious enthusiasm of a Cleveland art teacher is being celebrated.

In today’s State of the Arts, many former students are seeing their late teacher’s paintings for the first time in a retrospective of his work.

Entering the Tregoning Art Gallery a huge colorful canvas strikes the eye.

It’s full of meticulous realism, and elaborate fantasy.

And it’s one of many paintings native Clevelander Anthony Eterovich made of his home town.

Anthony Eterovich imagined Michelangelo in front of Cleveland's Soldiers and Sailor's Monument.
Credit TREGONING AND COMPANY

  Art dealer William Tregoning says it’s titled “Cleveland Renaissance Visitors.”

“And as you look at the stairs going up to the Soldiers and Sailors monument back-lit by the glass atrium of then the BP building. You’ll see Renaissance painters like Michelangelo standing there holding a bird, and people dissolving as they walk up the steps.” 

Long career in art and education
Eterovich was inspired by his city, and by his choreographer wife Alice, throughout his long career.  He lived to be 95.

Tregoning points to a painting Eterovich made in his early 80s.

“‘Fred and Ginger.’ He wanted to capture what he felt he and his wife had. Alice and he went out dancing on the weekends. They would have made a perfectly marvelous couple to watch move. He captures on canvas that baroque circular motion.”  

Eterovich taught in the Cleveland public schools and the Cleveland Institute of Art for more than half a century.

Eterovich painted this in his 80s while he was still ballroom dancing with his wife Alice, who studied modern dance with Martha Graham.
Credit TREGONING AND COMPANY

Tregoning only discovered his own art work after the teacher’s death five years ago. He wondered why he’d never seen it before but found out neither had many of his students.

“From the minute we opened the door we were just overwhelmed by the number of students who came back from the Cleveland schools, from the art institute. They all walked in. They couldn’t wait to see what their teacher did in his off time.”

Vivid colors and sense of humor
George Kozmon, now a teacher and professional artist himself, says the exhibition captures his late teacher’s spirit.

“His own sense of humor or just his own personality, a certain sense of drama, the simplicity of the compositions coupled with the vibrancy of colors/ there’s a lot of work here, but I think there’s quite a cohesion to it.” 

Eterovich painted this self portrait in 1945 after serving in the US Army during WWII.
Credit TREGONING AND COMPANY

Vivid colors dazzle the eye. Tregoning says Eterovich was influenced by a post war movement called magic realism.

“This was kind of like European surrealism, only a light version of it, without the sexual overtones and the dream state of Magritte and Dali. This was kind of surrealism light. It had fantasy to it and a much different color palette.” 

Confident draftsman
Former student George Kozmon says the exhibition shows how Eterovich was influenced by other movements, too.

“I think what does shine through, there’s a clear confidence to what he does. And I do remember him when he would do demonstrations. Those were probably half-hour to an hour, and they’re done. There’s an immediacy to the mark-making, that he does have a mastery. He knows his line. He knows the depth of the mark, whether it’s with a brush or whatever tool.”

Many of the works are large. Tregoning assembled 70 paintings with subjects varying from family and friends to movies, ballet, modern dance, and urban life.

New York art dealer Edith Halpert was taken with Eterovich after seeing his work in the 1951 Cleveland Museum of Art May Show and invited him to exhibit his "Table Charade" in her Upper East Side gallery.
Credit TREGONING AND COMPANY

Made the New York art scene
George Kozmon points to a work that a prominent New York art dealer showed in her Upper East Side gallery. It’s titled “Table Charade.”

“At first glance you walk across the room and there’s the vibrant colors, visceral brush strokes, and thick paint. But then you start discovering images within it. A little doorway where you see a landscape and a sunset. You see still life objects. You see this creature on the far left.”

He says its representative of his teacher’s off-beat attitude. “He took art very seriously, but he had this sense of humor and a kind of whimsy.”

Kozmon was 11 when he started life drawing classes at the Cleveland Institute of Art

That’s where he says Anthony Eterovich sparked his imagination.

“He was always like, ‘Try this. What if? What if you did that?’ A recognition of somebody who did that for generations is fantastic.”