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The Art of the Steinfeldts

through August 27, 2006


For the first time ever, the artwork of the Witte Museum's Curator Emeritus, Cecilia Steinfeldt, and her husband, Eric Steinfeldt, are being exhibited together, showcasing their artistic legacy. On July 15, the Witte Museum opened The Art of the Steinfeldts in the Piper Memorial Wing, where it will remain on view for a limited engagement through August 27, 2006.

The Art of the Steinfeldts features works by Cecilia Neuheisel Steinfeldt including watercolors, oils, linoleum block print Christmas cards and a selection of enamel work. Works by Eric Steinfeldt include watercolors, oils, graphite drawings and black and white photographs.

Cecilia Steinfeldt began her 60-year-long career at the Witte Museum as an art instructor. She earned her place as the First Lady of Texas Art through her many exhibits and articles on Texas artwork and, most importantly, her five books on Texas art including her most recent: S. Seymour Thomas: A Texas Genius Rediscovered. Her husband, Eric Steinfeldt, is a talented painter and cartographer. Spending summers at this family's vacation home in Galveston spurred a passion for ships and the sea. He devoted much time to reading and studying everything concerning nautical history, which is reflected in his photographs of hundreds of ships along the Gulf Coast.


Wall texts from the exhibition

Cecilia Steinfeldt
Cecilia was born in Montello, Wisconsin on May 24, 1915. She came with her family to San Antonio in 1923 and since then she has been a fiercely dedicated Texan.
Her talent for drawing and painting was evident at an early age and was fostered and encouraged by her parents. Graduating from high school in 1932 at the peak of the Great Depression, her family was unable financially to send her to college. Her art education was sporadic consisting primarily in odd scholarships and free instructions.
In 1936, Cecilia started teaching adult art classes at the Witte Museum. Mrs. Ellen Quillin, director, saw potential in the young lady and hired her as a staff member. She has served the museum in numerous different positions since that time and is now Curator Emeritus.
Eric Steinfeldt
Eric Steinfeldt is a native San Antonian, born at the family home at 1015 South St. Mary's Street on February 8, 1917. He was the son of John M. Steinfeldt and Viria Mae Ripley Steinfeldt. John Steinfeldt was a locally prominent musician, composer, and teacher. Eric grew up in a very cultured atmosphere and played cello. This, in turn, extended his interest in the arts to painting.
After he married Cecilia Neuheisel, he was further prompted to use his artistic talents in visual form. Henry Lee McFee, the well-known American painter, became interested in the young man and encouraged his efforts. When World War II intervened, Eric's artistic efforts came to a halt when he joined the Navy in 1942. After the war was over, he applied his creative urges to photography. His favorite subjects were ships and shipping along the Gulf Coast of the United States.
Ships and the Sea
Eric's passion for ships and the sea was a natural interest that developed when he spent his summers at the family's summer home at Morgan's Point near Galveston. He devoted much time to reading and studying anything and everything concerning nautical history. Much of this interest is reflected in photographs of hundreds of ships along the Gulf Coast. As a result, Eric has become an authority on the subject and is frequently consulted by researchers and scholars.
Linoleum Block Prints
Linoleum block prints are inexpensive versions of classic woodcuts. The blocks actually are made of firm thick linoleum mounted on wooden bases to steady them.
Although hard linoleum is difficult to cut, it does not require the skill that woodcuts demand. However, it does require dexterity and strength. Linoleum block prints are popular because they are less expensive to produce making them ideal mediums for multiple printings such as Christmas cards.
Cecilia's Christmas cards were printed by Edward Arrendondo at the Witte Museum and sold at the Witte store. Paint was frequently applied manually to give them life and color. Mask was a print exhibited in the Texas Centennial Exhibition at the State Fair in Dallas in 1936.
Enameling on Metal
Enamel is powdered glass about the consistency of fine sand. Enameling is the art of fusing a glassy coating onto the surface of a piece of metal. The metal object is treated with an adhesive coating such as agar, then the powdered enamel is dusted over the piece and put in a heated kiln at about 1500 degrees for a few minutes, making the powdered glass melt to a smooth surface. Many utilitarian and decorative items can be produced this way.
When Cecilia had no studio in which to paint, she turned her talents to craftwork creating items that were saleable, resulting in a welcome income.
Silver Images
When Eric decided to indulge in photography rather than painting, he approached the subject with the same energy and dedication he addressed everything. He used a Rolei camera with Zeis or Schoeder lenses, and always with a tripod. His images are primarily of ships and harbor scenes but occasionally a building or landscape provided inspiration.
Throughout the years he has compiled a valuable record of shipping history of the Gulf Coast. Doing his own developing with meticulous precision and care, his images can be considered works of art.
Silver Craft
Silver is a lustrous metal that has been used for centuries for decorative as well as utilitarian purposes. It is a versatile medium that can be used for coins, jewelry, tableware, household objects and in countless other ways.
Cecilia's silversmith attempts were elementary and minimal. She attended classes at San Antonio College and produced a few pieces but lacked the facilities to produce soldered pieces at home. The small green enameled pendant combines two crafts, that of hammered silver and enamel.


(above: Cecilia Steinfeldt, Guadalupe Street Scene, 1937, Watercolor. Gift of Cecilia Steinfeldt) 


(above: Cecilia Steinfeldt, Eric Reading a Book, 1941, Oil on canvas. Gift of Bill and Mary Cheek Family)

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