George William Sotter

American, 1879 - 1953
George W. Sotter is remembered for painting the scenic towns, farms, mills and valleys that make Bucks County such a welcoming destination. Great artists leave behind in their art, a legacy. The early twentieth century was filled with talented artists, although, there is only ever a mere few, who can deservingly be regarded as “the best of.” Amid the vast field of American Impressionist painters, when painting a “nocturne,” George Sotter had no equal. He had the ability to make dark seem light. Most criticisms of nocturne paintings are that they are too dark, seeming dreary and depressing, or hard to read. This is where Sotter shines. He had the ability to turn a cold winter night into a glowing moonlit masterpiece. The moonlight lights up the snow and reflects off the water. Stars shine from above. Lighted Candles glow in the windows. These pictures are warm and soothing. Another of Sotter’s specialties was his amazing ability to paint clouds. He would fill half of his composition with billowing illuminist clouds and below would be an entire village painted with incredible detail demonstrating a masterful sense of light.

Sotter was a stained glass artist before he turned to landscape painting, and his stained glass work grew in importance during his life in Bucks County. Sotter discovered Bucks County in 1902. He was given a leave of absence from his job at a Pittsburgh stained glass studio to enroll at the Pennsylvania Academy. His employer, Horace Rudy had earlier attended the Academy and was friends with many important artists, one of whom being Edward Redfield. Rudy had arranged an introduction and the younger Sotter persuaded Redfield to give him instruction. This was a rare occurrence as Redfield did not fancy himself a teacher. A lifelong friendship resulted. Sotter returned to the Pittsburgh studio after the summer and fall with Redfield. He again studied at the Pennsylvania Academy from 1905-1907 with Thomas Anshutz, William Merritt Chase and Henry Keller. In1907, he married Alice Bennett, an artist who started working in the Rudy studio in 1904. In 1910, Sotter became an instructor at the Carnegie Institute of Technology's School of Fine Arts, a position he held until1919.

Sotter returned to Bucks County in 1919, fulfilling a vow he reportedly made to Redfield. His friend helped him find the house on Ash Mill Road, in Holicong, where the Sotters lived and operated the Sotter Studio. Although he considered himself a landscape painter at the time, his work with stained glass preceded him. He was consulted, and then began taking commissions for stained glass. His work in the medium quickly spread to Cleveland, Boston, and New York. Sotter had fifteen craftsmen working with him at one time and his work helped establish Bucks County as a center of stained glass art.

Sotter's work is in permanent collections of the James A. Michener Art Museum, LaSalle University Art Museum, New Jersey State Museum, Pennsylvania State Museum, Reading Public Museum, and the Woodmere Art Museum. He exhibited extensively throughout his career at most of Americas Prestigious institutions and won many awards, including the Silver Medal at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco in1915.George Sotter died in Holicong, Bucks County, Pennsylvania in1953 at the age of seventy four.
Landscape Painter and stained-glass artist George William Sotter was born in Pittsburgh on September 25, 1879, the son of Nicholas and Katherine Sotter. During his youth he painted a number of river and industrial scenes documenting the Pittsburgh landscape, two of which allegedly were later purchased by Andrew Carnegie and Sotter's former teacher, William Merritt Chase.

Sotter apprenticed with several stained-glass studios in Pittsburgh prior to becoming a partner in the studio of Horace Rudy in Pittsburgh about 1901. Rudy served as a mentor for Sotter. As Sotter explained in 1940, it was Rudy who arranged for him to meet a number of artists with whom he had studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. He also gave Sotter a leave of absence in 1902 to attend the Pennsylvania Academy and then study plein air painting with Edward Redfield at his home in Center Bridge, Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

Sotter's painting Clouds and Sunshine was exhibited in the Pennsylvania Academy's annual exhibition in 1903. From 1905 to 1907 lie studied at the academy with Thomas Anshutz and William Merritt Chase. In 1907 he married Alice E. Bennett, a fellow artist he had met in the Rudy studio in 1904. From 1910 to 1919 he taught painting and design at the Carnegie Institute of Technology's School of Fine Arts. He received a silver medal at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915, followed by a first prize at the exhibition of the Associate Artists of Pittsburgh in 1917. During the 1910s Sotter exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy; the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; and the National Academy of Design, New York.

In 1919 the artist and his wife took up residence in Holicong, Pennsylvania, where Sotter established the stained-glass studio that became his primary source of income for the rest of his life.

At one time Sotter had as many as fifteen assistants, including Valentine D'Ogries and Forest Crooks, who became noted for their work in stained glass. His studio helped establish Bucks County as a center of stained-glass art, which produced works for churches in Pittsburgh, New York, Wheeling, St. Louis, St. Paul, Cleveland, Akron, and Cincinnati, as well as for the New Jersey State Museum in Trenton. He also designed a window for Buckingham's Trinity Church in Bucks County.

Sotter painted his landscapes and designed stained-glass windows in his studio in Holicong through the 1940s. He had a solo exhibition of paintings and cartoons for his stained-glass Windows at the Woodmere Museum in Philadelphia in October and November 1950.

Although Sotter painted marine pictures and dramatic landscape vistas with cloud-filled skies, he is most remembered for his magical moonlit snow scenes. These paintings capture the expansive evening skies and old fieldstone houses of rural Bucks County in the stillness of winter, reflecting a sensibility for the old, the concealed, and the introspective. While Sotter's early snow scenes resemble the work of his teacher Edward Redfield in their bold palette and direct style, his mature snow scenes reveal a fascination with the light of the evening sky as it falls on the snowy landscape. The overall impression conveyed in these minimally patterned views is one of unearthly tranquility as small lights flicker from solitary windows in the cold stone houses.

The artist died at his home in Holicong in 1953.

Biography courtesy of Roughton Galleries,
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