Beechwood, c. 1970, casein on Masonite, 48 x 36 inches, signed lower left, titled verso; Exhibited: 1) Schnur’s Solo exhibition at Bird in the Hand Gallery in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, in November, 1974 (see Miller, Donald, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, November 15, 1974); and 2) 65th Annual Exhibition of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh at the Carnegie Institute Museum of Art, from April 3 through May, 8, 1975 (see Kanter, Dorothy, Comments Rutchin’ Around, The Daily American (Somerset, Pennsylvania), April, 26, 1975).
About the Painting
Beechwood is a beautiful and well-reviewed example of Anna Marie Schnur’s highly realistic, but mysterious, works produced between the 1960s and 1970s. In this painting, we see the significant influence of Andrew Wyeth and the other Brandywine School painters. Donald Miller, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette art critic, wrote about Beechwood, "Several of the realist works . . . attempt more than one would expect. Miss Schnur's landscape of a city street, "Beechwood," in which bare tree limbs make a strong pattern on an ordinary surface, is quietly interesting. It reflects the bird's eye perspective the artist has used to advantage in the past." Another critic in her review of the 65th Annual Exhibition of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh at the Carnegie Institute Museum of Art, observed, "One of the canvases, we are delighted to report, is one submitted by Anna Marie Schnur, in recent years identified with Somerset in which she now makes her permanent residence. Her large canvas of a tree growing up in the medial strip between pavement and street and casting its sharp shadow on the cement of the highway, etches itself on one's mind. On a bright summer day, one has often seen that sharp-edged distinctness of a tree's shadow so welcome on a bare street or pavement." Having stared at this work for hours in our own gallery, we agree that it is pleasantly etched into our minds.
About the Artist
Anna Marie Schnur is among the best mid-century American artists you have probably never heard of. Born in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania on October 27, 1930, Schnur spent most of her life in the western part of the Commonwealth. Schnur showed an early interest in and aptitude for art, receiving a scholarship for Saturday classes at a local art school in 1944 when she was only thirteen years old. After finishing high school, Schnur graduated from The State Teachers College, Indiana, Pennsylvania, with a degree in art education. While there, her works won honors at student art shows. She later obtained a Master of Fine Art Degree from Penn State University. Soon after graduation from State Teachers College, Schnur joined the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh and began exhibiting at their annual exhibitions at the Carnegie Institute Museum of Art. She also entered other juried shows and competitions starting in the early 1950s at a time when she worked as an elementary school art teacher and spent her free time painting mainly non-objective works. Around 1962, Schnur visited an Andrew Wyeth exhibition at the Albright-Know Art Museum in Buffalo, New York, and it changed the trajectory of her art and career. Leaving abstraction behind, Schnur began an eighteen-year period painting highly realistic landscapes devoid of people with a limited color palette and a detailed, sharp focus on the interplay between light and shadow as it falls across the landscape. To capture specific moments in time, she often used a Polaroid instant camera to create studies for her paintings, which likely contributed to the narrow range of her palette according to one critic. Like Wyeth, Schnur’s paintings during this period often convey a sense of melancholy brought about through the aged and weathered surfaces she depicted. Unlike Wyeth, however, whose most famous works were completed in tempera and watercolor, Schnur found that casein served her purpose. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Schnur’s brand of “sentimental realism” was applauded by critics, who cited her accomplishments in the same newspaper articles with now much more famous artists such as Henry Koerner. By 1972, Schnur abandoned teaching and devoted the rest of her life to being a professional artist. In 1979, Schnur and her companion and fellow artist, Sally Zoerb, moved to Bakersville, Somerset County, Pennsylvania. The University Museum at Indiana University of Pennsylvania gave her a solo exhibition in 1990. In the last decades of her career, Schnur began working in an epic, almost life-size scale and figures began to appear in her paintings, which one critic labeled as neo-surreal. That same critic, Donald Miller, of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, noted in 1993, that Schnur deserved to be awarded the Artist of the Year at the Pittsburgh Art Center. In 2003, the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art honored Schnur with a solo exhibition. In addition to her dozens of appearances at the Carnegie, Schnur’s works were exhibited at the Butler Institute of American Art, the El Paso Museum of Art, the Chautagua National Jury Show, the Seward Gallery in Westfield New York, the Three Rivers Arts Festival, the Appalachian Corridors Exhibits in Charleston West Virginia, the Alleghenies Museum of Art, and the West Virginia University in Morgantown. She had a number of solo shows at galleries in the Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Virginias and West Virginia. She was honored with eight awards at juried exhibitions of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh, the IUP Ambassador Award, and the Lee Atkins Memorial Award for Artistic Achievement. Schnur died in 2018 and was survived by her long-time companion, Sally Zoerb.