Harry Shokler (1896-1978): July in Brooklyn

1948, Serigraph, 9 x 12 in, Signed in pencil lr, "Harry Shokler"

Harry Shokler was born in Cincinnati in 1896 to Yiddish-speaking, Russian immigrant parents, Kalman and Ida Shokler. They had immigrated separately to the United States and married in 1888. Harry was the fourth of eight children. His father became a furrier by 1910, and a daughter and son followed him into the business. Kalman Shokler also wanted Harry to also become a furrier, but once he understood that 12-year old Harry wanted to be an artist, he gave him his blessing.

Harry Shokler enrolled at the Cincinnati Art Academy and later at the School of Fine and Applied Art in New York City. In New York he was befriended by a well known syndicated columnist, Jim Allison, who arranged fro some celebrity friends to be painted by Shokler, including Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and others.

Shokler exhibited at the Society of Independent Artists in New York in 1926, and the award of a scholarship allowed him to travel to France. In Brittany he was influenced by the French landscape painter, Jerome Blum. Later in the year Shokler traveled to Tunisia where he met his future wife, Dahris Martin, who assisted Shokler in obtaining lodgings and models. Dahris Martin later authored a book about Tunisia called, Among the Faithful. In 1927 Shokler returned to Paris via Italy and Germany and exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1928.

“Successive one man exhibitions followed his return to the States, at the Grand central Art Galleries in New York, at the Baltimore Museum, in Cincinnati, etc… He also became a fellow of the MacDowell Colony, where he spent several creative summers.”[4]

“Although primarily a painter, Shokler worked in other media as well. During the thirties, while living in New York, he turned to printmaking. Many of his prints of that era, of renewed interest today, are etchings and wood engravings made under the auspices of the W.P.A. Art Project. But since he was essentially a colorist, he became fascinated with the possibilities of silk screen printing. He became one of the pioneers who by long experimentation developed the silk screen method to the point where it became accepted all over the world as a new art form: serigraphy. His serigraphs, acclaimed for their extraordinary artistry and skill have been shown in over fifty one-man shows throughout the country. He was a member of the Silk Screen Group, president of the National Serigraph Society and a teacher at the Brooklyn Museum of Art School.”[3] Shokler also authored a guide to serigraphy in 1946, “Artists Manual for Silkscreen printing.”

In 1934 the Shoklers moved to Londonderry, Vermont which remained their permanent residence until their deaths. Shokler’s art reflected his observations on the Vermont countryside, “and his observations of town and village have a feeling of sympathetic joy.”[5]

Shokler’s prints and paintings are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum, the Philadelphia Museum, Syracuse Museum, Carnegie Institute, Library of Congress, Princeton Print Club and the National Gallery of Fine Art in Washington.

Sources:
(1) Falk, Peter Hastings, Who Was Who in American Art: 1564-1975, Sound View Press, 1999.
(2) www.Ancestry.com.
(3) Asheville Art Museum, www.ashevilleart.org.
(4) Shokler, Dahris Martin, “A Biography,” in the Smithsonian Art Archives.
(5) Mayer, Ralph, “Harry Shokler Retrospective: Exhibition of Paintings and Serigraphs 1920-1971,” July 15 to July 30, 1972, Southern Vermont Art Center, Manchester, Vermont.