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 Walter Steinhilber  (1897 - 1983)

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: editorial cartoonist, commercial art, watercolor painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following biographical information, submitted May 2010, is from Julie Steinhilber, granddaughter of the artist, Walter Steinhilber.  She writes:  "I have many of his watercolors that I inherited after he died as well as old sketches he did for his newspapers and magazine covers." 

Highlights of his life are:

Born: 1897 and died 1983.

He was a New York Graphic artist, who for many years did editorial cartoons for the Weekly People and other Socialist Labor Party Publications.

He earned his living in the 1920s as a commercial artist specializing in hand lettering, and later taught design at Pratt Institute.

Steinhilber was several times a candidate for state and city offices on the Socialist Party ticket.

A feature article about him appeared in American Artist magazine/March 1960.

At the Maverick Theatre in Woodstock, NY, he performed as a actor and was a set builder

He painted hundreds of watercolors during his lifetime.

Walter Steinhilber, of German emigrant grandparents, was born in Dolgeville, New York, and brought as an infant to South Brooklyn, New York, where he spent his childhood in the working-class neighborhoods of Manhattan.  The family lived in poverty, but he later became a successful commercial* artist, cartoonist and watercolor painter.  For early inspiration, he credited an art book, Glimpses of the World by John L. Stoddard. 

Steinhilber's styles were Impressionism* and Realism*, and many of his large-scale watercolors were completed outdoors on site, en plein aire*.  Using pen and ink, and making many sketches, he created numerous cartoons and other commercial illustrations. 

In New York, he studied at the Mechanics Institute* and at the Art Students’ League* with George Bridgman and John Sloan.  As a young man, he spent many summers at Woodstock, New York where he enrolled at the Woodstock Summer School, an extension of the Art Students League.  Among his teachers were George Bellows, Eugene Speicher, and Leon Kroll.  Not only did he study painting, but he acted in and produced plays and set designs for the Maverick Theatre (There are a few pictures of this activity online courtesy of the Woodstock Hudson Library).  These concerts and plays were the precursor of the famous ‘Woodstock’ Festival concert of August 1969.

Steinhilber began his art career as an apprentice to an engraver*, becoming a journeyman, and then left that position to enter the art department of the American Lithograph Company.  In 1922, he established his own private commercial art studio.  For fifteen years, he served as an instructor of commercial art and industrial design at Pratt Institute* in Brooklyn.

Steinhilber also became involved with politics through the Socialist Labor Party movement during the 1930s, and this activity was reflected in his artwork with themes of Social Realism or suppression of ordinary people.  During that time he produced many political cartoons, ads and magazine covers for socialist publications such as The Weekly People, The Masses, and for Vanity Fair, which had a broader audience.  He became acquainted with Langston Hughes and  for the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, illustrated one of Hughes' poems, Advertisement, which appeared as a full spread in Vanity Fair.  An article called “The Water Color Page” in The 2nd International Travel Art Issue of American Artist magazine, March 1960, had a three-page interview with Steinhilber and a color plate of his watercolor painting, Quay at Mykonos, 16 X 20. 

With all of the demands of a busy career he found time for extensive travel.  His 'wunderlust' took him around the world.  He painted the 'high-spots' of thirty five countries on four continents and exhibited in many of these places including Germany, Hong Kong, Hawaii, and New England, primarily in New Hampshire and Maine.  He spent many winters doing watercolors in San Miguel De Allende, Mexico.

In Brooklyn, he was a member of the Clinton Hill Artists Group, painters led by New York artist Clinton Hill (1922-2003). 

In the 1970s and 1970s, exhibition venues included the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes; San Miguel de Allende, Mexico;  Brooklyn Savings Bank arranged through Hicks Street Gallery; and a watercolor on display at the Brooklyn Museum at one time as part of the Clinton Hill Artists.  In December 1980, an exhibition of his work was at the Brooklyn College Student Center.

Walter Steinhilber died in January, 1983 in Brooklyn.

Final Note: As his granddaughter, I would tag along with him while he painted... whether it was an Ohio farmhouse, a falling down silo, or ship yard in Maine, his watercolors were fresh, inviting and done on site.

What I think makes him very interesting as an artist, is not only his world traveling/painting experiences, but his political activism.  He was a free thinker, and although not many shared his views on politics, there seems to have been a lot of interest in Red or Komrade/Socialist artwork in recent months. 

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary


** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at
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