Chicago Christmas (Untitled), c. 1948, watercolor on paper, 9 ¾ x 13 ½ inches, signed lower right (unframed)
About the Painting
Chicago Christmas is a charming American Scene painting. Warner likely captured this image of what appears to be a pop-up Christmas tree lot while exploring the inner suburbs of Chicago, the city where he attended art school. Although still a young artist, we can already see Warner’s strong ability to depict architectural scenes in watercolor, a talent for which he was later awarded a commission by the United States Post Office.
About the Artist
A native of Scranton, Pennsylvania, George Custer Warner, spent most of his adult life in Eugene, Oregon, where he excelled at depicting in watercolor the historic sites of the Pacific Northwest. During the early 1940s, Warner studied art at Michigan State University and later at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. During his time in Chicago, Warner explored the American Scene and produced watercolors that seem influenced by Edward Hopper, Charles Burchfield, and Clarence Holbrook Carter. Warner primarily painted the architecture of Chicago neighborhoods with their distinct buildings. The best of these works is filled with a strong light which casts deep shadows across the composition. In 1950, Warner moved west to Eugene, Oregon, where he continued to paint architecture, including scenes of the area’s traditional industries, logging and lumber mills. Warner quickly became an active member of the visual art community in Eugene, serving as a host at the University of Oregon’s Oriental Art Museum and becoming a member of the Eugene Art Center. By 1953, Warner’s work was accepted to the Annual Invitational Eugene Area Artists Show, which was considered the most important art exhibition in Eugene. The 1953 exhibition presented the work of thirty-eight professional and semi-professional Northwest artists, including Anne and David McCosh. In 1954, Warner exhibited at the Eugene Art and Engineering Center. His watercolors of historic sites were illustrated several times in the local newspaper, The Eugene Guard, through the balance of the 1950s and Warner exhibited his works at the Lane County Courthouse and the Eugene Public Library. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Warner produced a series of prints based on his watercolors of prominent Eugene landmarks. In 1992, the United States Postal Service selected Warner’s watercolor of Waller Hall for a 19-cent postcard to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Willamette University. The Postal Service printed ten million copies of the postcard, which was part of a more expansive historic preservation series. Warner’s watercolors are in the collection of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon.