Painting and Printmaking

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During the mid-20th century a new awakening in the visual arts occurred among North American Mennonites. This article focuses primarily on developments in the United States. The awakening happened, in part, due to the establishment of visual art programs at several Mennonite colleges and because of the need for artists at Mennonite publishing houses. An exhibition of visual art organized by the Goshen College art department staff in 1975, celebrating the 450th anniversary year of the Anabaptist Mennonite movement, attracted 54 professional Mennonite artists. A subsequent exhibition of Mennonite artists' work at Goshen College was held in 1980. A catalog of these artists' work was published for each exhibition. A visual arts exhibition was held at the Tenth Mennonite World Conference, Wichita, Ks., in 1978. This exhibition and its catalog, the latter edited by Ethel Abrahams, identified an additional 74 Mennonite artists. Thus these three exhibitions identified 128 artists who were professionally active in making art in North America.

While many Mennonite artists of Canada and United States received their education at art institutes, state universities, and private colleges, the majority of the documented North American Mennonite artists received their undergraduate art education in Mennonite colleges. J. P. Klassen (1888-1975), a potter-sculptor, directed an art program at Bluffton College, Ohio from 1924 to 1958. He was followed by Darvin Luginbuhl (b. 1921), a potter, who chaired the department from 1958 to 1984. He was joined by Jay Baumbaugh (b. 1966). Gregg J. Luginbuhl (b. 1949), a potter, began chairing the department in 1984. A similar program was begun in 1926 at Goshen College, (Indiana) by John F. Slabaugh. He was followed in 1927 by Arthur L. Sprunger (1897-1972), a painter-sculptor who developed eight courses in art offered in alternate years. He worked part-time at the college while teaching full-time at Goshen High School. He was followed by Ezra S. Hershberger (b. 1904), a painter, who expanded the program to 16 courses in 1955, establishing a full major in art. He retired from teaching in 1970. Abner H. Hershberger (b. 1934), a painter-printmaker, began teaching at Goshen in 1965, chairing the department from 1970. He was joined by Marvin P. Bartel (b. 1937), a potter, in 1970; Alta Hertzler (1937-1983), a fiber artist; and Judy Wenig-Horswell. Two hundred art majors had graduated from Goshen College by 1987. Art courses at Bethel College (Ks.) began as early as 1895. Lena Waltner (b. 1895), a painter, taught art from 1934 to 1960 during which time a minor in art was begun. Robert W. Regier (b. 1930), a printmaker-painter, has chaired the department since 1966 and has developed an art major along with Paul A. Friesen (b. 1923), a potter-sculptor and part-time instructor at Bethel (late 1950s to 1987). To this staff was added Miguel Almanza who taught from 1968 to 1981, and Gail Lutsch, 1981ff. By 1987 more than 110 students have graduated from Bethel with art majors. Friesen began an art program at Hesston College (Kansas) in 1956 and was followed by John R. Blosser (b. 1944), a painter, in 1978. Katherine Bartel (b. 1953), a fiber artist, joined the art staff at Bethel College in 1985. In 1970, painter Stanley A. Kaufman (b. 1939) started an art major at Eastern Mennonite College, Harrisonburg, Virginia, joined in 1975 by potter Jerry Lapp (b. 1945). In 2009 that major was under a Visual and Communication Arts program staffed by five full-time faculty members. It included one of the few photography majors offered at a Christian liberal arts college in the country, a digital media major, a freestanding fine arts studio named after sculpture Esther K. Augsburger, and several galleries for students and visiting artists. On the West Coast Rod Harder (b. 1950), a painter, taught art courses at Pacific College, Fresno, CA, from 1972 to 1985 and then moved to New York City to continue painting there.

At each of the Mennonite colleges offering a major in art, gallery programs were developed during the 1960s. These monthly exhibits provided a rich source of original works of art for the students and communities they serve. The above mentioned artist-teachers involved in the development of Mennonite college art programs have been dedicated not only to teaching art, but also in the production of art. All have shown their work regularly in local, regional, and in many cases, national exhibitions. Their art works are included in numerous art collections. In response to the "Mennonite Artists Contemporary" art exhibition held at Goshen College, Dennis Adrian, a Chicago art historian and critic, wrote the following:

"What this fascinating effort demonstrates conclusively is that modern Mennonite artists have come to feel (and have felt for some time) that any art, if it be understood as the revelation of the positive activity of the human awareness, is an enhancement of and contribution to the spiritual basis and purpose of both the artist and his public. This does not mean that Mennonite artists concern themselves with exclusively "spiritual" doctrinal or religious subject matter, but that the contemporary Mennonite community has for some time now regarded the visual arts as being as naturally and as properly integrated within Mennonite identity as music has been for more than four centuries."

Painters and printmakers are highlighted in the paragraphs that follow. For information about Mennonite artists in related visual media see Ceramics, Graphic Design, Folk Art, and Photography; also see an additional list of painters and printmakers at the end of this article and the following catalogs: Abner H. Hershberger, Mennonite artists contemporary (Goshen College Press, 1975, 1980); Ethel Ewert Abrams, Mennonite World Conference: Tenth Assembly (Hillsboro, KS: Mennonite Brethren Publishing House, 1978).

Albert Henry Krehbiel (1873-1945) was an early American Impressionist painter and for almost four decades a member of the faculty of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He was the son of Anna and John Jacob Krehbiel of Denmark, Iowa. (His father later became a carriage-maker and a cofounder of Bethel College, ( Kansas, USA) In the 1890s A. H. Krehbiel studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and was awarded the school's American Traveling Scholarship, which enabled him to study for several years under European artists, including Jean Paul Laurens at the Academic Julian in Paris. Krehbiel received four gold prizes of the Academie and also the Prix de Rome. Returning to the Chicago area he became known as a landscape painter. In 1907 he was commissioned to paint the murals for the Illinois Supreme Court in Springfield.

Oliver Wendell Schenk, (1903-1996), a painter from Gomer, Ohio, lived and worked at Southwest Harbor, Maine. He attended Goshen College and the Art Students League of New York City. His artwork appeared with some regularity in the Saturday evening post, Colliers magazine, and Ford times, 1949-60. His work includes portraits of Mennonite and Anabaptist leaders, including Christopher Dock, George Blaurock, Conrad Grebel, and Felix Manz. The latter three paintings were commissioned by Laurelville Mennonite Center in Pennsylvania.

Ezra S. Hershberger (b. 1904) painter, was born at Milford, NE. He graduated from Goshen College in 1934. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and U. of Iowa and received an MA degree in 1956 at the U. of Northern Colorado. He taught at Mount Herman School, Darjeeling, India (1938-42); McPherson College, Kansas (1945-55); and at Goshen College (1955-70). His paintings, mostly of the landscape, are representational in style, have been shown at the U. of Northern Colorado, South Bend Art Center, Wabash College, and Fort Wayne Art Center. He is represented in the collections of McPherson College and Goshen College.

Woldemar Neufeld with a copy of his work.

Woldemar Neufeld (1909-2002), was born in the Ukraine and immigrated with his family to Waterloo, ON. After graduating from the Cleveland Art Institute he moved to New York City in 1945, and four years later settled at New Milford, CT, where he established a permanent studio. His watercolors, oils and relief paints depict such themes as New England landscapes, New York City East River scenes, and Waterloo County ON, scenes. Neufeld's work is found in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Library of Congress, and the Boston Public Library. A collection of Waterloo County, Ontario scenes by Neufeld is owned by Conrad Grebel College.

Margaret Balzer Cantieni (b. 1914), from Northfield, MN, is a painter who studied at Carleton College and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Additionally, she received instruction from Josef Albers, W. S. Hayter's Atelier 17 in Paris, and Black Mountain College. She taught at Berea College, 1937-46, and at the Baum School of the Allentown Art Museum 1965-70. Her work has been shown at the Brooklyn Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, and Lehigh U., and is found in the collections of Berea College, the U. of Louisville, Lehigh U. and Carleton College.

Naomi Nissley Limont (b. 1927), a printmaker-painter in Philadelphia was born in Chester County, PA. She received her art education at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and studied at Tyler School of Art completing a graduate level degree there in 1965. Her work has been exhibited nationally and is represented in collections at Harvard U., the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the U. of Pennsylvania. Her illustrations were featured in the Mennonite community cookbook, edited by Mary Emma Showalter.

Warren Rohrer (b. 1927), a painter born in Lancaster, PA, attended Eastern Mennonite College and studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He taught at the Academy of Fine Arts, then, in 1978, at the Philadelphia College of Art. He has shown his work throughout the United States and is represented in the permanent collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the U. of Delaware, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Best known of his works among Mennonites is a woodcut of Menno Simons located at the Goshen College Mennonite Historical Library.

Robert W. Regier (b. 1930) painter-printmaker, was born at Mountain Lake, MN. He graduated from Bethel College, Kansas (BA, 1952), studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, Wichita State U., and the U. of Illinois (MFA, 1965). He was art director for Mennonite Central Committee and the General Conference Mennonite Church (1957-63). He taught art at Bethel College, 1965-. Exhibitions of his paintings and prints, usually abstract images derived from nature, have been shown at Northwest Printmakers, Seattle; 7th Midwest Biennial, Omaha; Annual Boston Printmakers, Tulsa; and Regional and Mid-America Exhibit, Kansas City. His work is represented in the collections of DeCordova Museum of Contemporary Art, Lincoln, MA; Wichita Art Museum; Kansas State College, Fort Hays, KS, and at Hesston (Kansas), Goshen and Bethel colleges.

Abner H. Hershberger (b. 1934) painter-printmaker, was born at Milford, NE, moved to Casselton, ND in 1937. He studied art at Goshen College (BA, 1960), and until 1964 taught art in Indiana public schools. He studied at the U. of Notre Dame, Indiana U. (MAT, 1965), and at the U. of Michigan (MFA, 1970). He taught art at Goshen College since 1965. His work, generally abstract and based on themes from nature, has been shown at Avanti Gallery, New York City; U. of Michigan; Indianapolis Museum of Art; Gruen Gallery, Chicago; and Adamson Gallery, Washington, D.C. He is represented in the collections of Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, DC; Jackson, Mississippi Art Center; Kala Institute, Berkeley, CA; and at Eastern Mennonite, Goshen, Hesston, Bluffton, Bethel, and Messiah colleges.

Gathie Falk (b. 1940), of Vancouver, B.C., works in two- and three-dimensional art media. She has shown widely in North America including shows at the U. of California, Santa Barbara; the New York Cultural Center; and the Montreal Art Museum. She is represented in collections at the U. of British Columbia, the Vancouver Art Gallery, the federal Department of External Affairs in Ottawa, and many private collections. She has been featured numerous times in Arts Canada since Dec. 1969, and in Studio International (Winter 1970) and Art in America (May 1972).

John R. Blosser (b. 1944) painter, lived at North Canton, Ohio. He attended Bluffton College and graduated from Goshen College in 1970 with a BA in art. He also studied at Bowling Green State U. (MA, 1979), and at Arizona State U. (MFA 1987) , He taught at Garden Valley Collegiate, Winkler, Manitoba (1975-78), and at Hesston College since 1978. His drawings and paintings are usually integrated abstract and representational compositions. He has shown at Bowling Green State U., Arizona State U., U. of Kansas, and at Wichita State U., Eastern Mennonite, Hesston, Bluffton, Goshen, and Bethel colleges.

Elizabeth Wenger of Goshen (b. 1946), creates two-dimensional art works in the medium of petit point needlework. Images in her work are figurative, are presented in rich colors, and are usually based on themes taken from biblical texts. She has shown her works at Conrad Grebel College, Goshen College, and the South Bend [IN] Art Center. A major collection of her work resides at Associate Mennonite Biblical Seminaries, Elkhart, IN.

Erma Martin Yost (b. 1947), a painter from Goshen, studied at James Madison U. (BA , 1969; MA, 1975). She has shown her work at the NOHO Gallery in New York City Rockland Center, Nyack, NY; Jersey City Museum; World Trade Center, New York City; and the Bargen Community Museum, Paramus, N.J.. She is represented in collections at Pace U., the Virginia Art Institute, James Madison U., Harrisonburg, VA, and Goshen College. Her paintings are composed of landscape motifs and quilt images.

Wanda Koop (b. 1951), a painter from Vancouver, B.C., graduated in 1973 from the U. of Manitoba with a fine arts degree. Born to a Russian Mennonite family, she was featured in a special cover article in Canadian Art (Fall, 1984). Her paintings are representational, billboard size, and have been shown throughout Canada including the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Toronto's Art Gallery and the Glenbow Museum in Calgary. In 1981 she did a 52-foot (16-meter) environmental piece entitled "Wall" for the Manitoba Legislature Building.

Additional painters and printmakers worthy of mention are the following: Ethel Abrahams, James D. Ashcraft, Jerry L. Bontrager, Stanley Paul Book, Mary Lou Brubaker, Sylvia Gross Bubalo, Vladimir L. Bubalo, Jon Cutrell, August R. Ebel, Susan Elaine Ebersole, Allen Eitzen, Ruth Eitzen, Philip Epp, Geneva Flickner, John L. Fretz, Victor Friesen, Anna Emerson Friesen, Clayton Funk, Patricia Galinski, Jena-Pierre Gerber, Ernest Goertzen, Mary Lou Rich Goertzen, Philip Hershberger, Dorcas B. Kraybill, Julie Longacre, Stan Miller, Verna Oyer, Maryls Penner, Randy Penner, Gwen Entz Peterson, John Redekop, Daniel Wade Rupe, James L. Stauffer, Brian Stucky, Paul J. Wolber, Edith L. Yoder, Martha Becker Yoder, Ray Yoder, David Zeizet.

See also Art (1955)


Friesen, Paul, Gordon D. Kaufman, Warren Kliewer, V. Gerald Musselman, Robert W. Regier, Elaine Sommers Rich, Orlando Schmidt, and David H. Suderman in Mennonite Life 20 (January 1965), sp. issue.

Grosjean, Ardis. "New York City Seminar Focuses on the State of the Arts." Mennonite (May 1981): 318.

Kehler, Larry. "The Artistic Pilgrimage of John P. Klassen." Mennonite Life 28 (December 1973): 114-18, 125-27.

"John P. Klassen--Artist and Teacher." Mennonite Life 24 (October 1969): 147-50.

Klaassen, Walter. "A Christian View of the Fine Arts." Mennonite Life 21 (July 1966): 99-106.

Krehbiel, Rebecca F. "Albert Henry Krehbiel, 1873-1945: Early American Impressionist." Mennonite Life 40 (March 1985): 4-8.

Miller, John W. "Creativity and Discipline." Mennonite Life 21 (July 1966): 111-14.

Penner, Randy. "Commercial Art." Mennonite Life 21 (July 1966): 115-17.

Preheim, Marion Keeney. "Robert Regier: Searching for the Essence." Mennonite (1 November): 658.

Regier, Robert W. "Art as Process." Bethel College Bulletin (March 1968).

Regier, Robert W. "The Anabaptists and Art: the Dutch Golden Age of Painting." Mennonite Life 23 (January 1968): 16-21.

Regier, Robert W. "Art and Environment." Mennonite Life 22 (July 1967): 105.

Regier, Robert W. "Recent Protest Art." Mennonite Life 23 (April 1968): 70-75.

Author(s) Alfred Habegger
Date Published 2009

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Habegger, Alfred. "Painting and Printmaking." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 2009. Web. 3 Aug 2020.

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Habegger, Alfred. (2009). Painting and Printmaking. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 3 August 2020, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, pp. 667-669. All rights reserved.

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