Illinois State Museum

Springfield, IL



From the Creative Hand: The Carvings of W.D. Neher


The Illinois State Museum presents From the Creative Hand: The Carvings of W.D. Neher now through January 2, 2000. W.D. Neher (1868-1961) was known for his exquisitely carved wood sculptures. A legend in Chenoa during his lifetime, Neher's artistic activities were gradually forgotten after his death, until a number of carvings still stored in his studio were rediscovered. Illinois folk art collector and lecturer Merle H. Glick in conjunction with the Lakeveiw Museum of Arts and Science, has assembled over fifty of Neher's carved wall reliefs, sculptures, furniture and paintings for this exhibition.

Neher lived in Chenoa, Illinois where he made his living as a commercial photographer, while pursuing his avocation of wood-carving. He never sold his works commercially, but shared them with friends and members of his family, giving carvings, especially the wooden ones as gifts. Neher used only a pocket knife, screwdriver and sandpaper to make his carvings which ranged in scale from modest wall decorations to large pieces of furniture. His large body of work is based on a variety of subject matter including rural landscapes, narratives with figures, bible stories, personal memories and portraits of friends. Some of the works are painted, enhancing their realism, others retain their natural wood coloring and grain.

Highlights of the exhibition are Fish Chair, a chair embellished with carved fish, cattails and organic shapes; The Last Supper, a has relief version of Leonard Da Vinci's painting; and Baptizo, which depicts Neher's minister father performing a traditional Dunkard triple-immersion baptism along the banks of the Mackinaw River.This exhibition was funded in part by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Division of Forest Resources and the U.S. Forest Service, State and Private Forestry.

The Illinois State Museum is located at Spring and Edwards Streets


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