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Le Puy by Alice Schille

Seeing Alice Schille's Watercolors in a New Light

On display until Sept. 29, the Columbus Museum of Art is exhibiting In a New Light: Alice Schille and the American Watercolor Movement. This exhibition chronologically showcases the Columbus native’s work from her very beginning through her final years on the occasion of her 150th birthday.

The show takes guests through Schille’s travels to France, the Netherlands, Croatia, Great Britain, Italy, Egypt, Morocco, Mexico, Tunisia, and more, which were pivotal to influencing her work. According to the Columbus Museum of Art, “Schille’s Dalmatian watercolors demonstrate an interest in surface pattern, light, and color; they earned the artist her first major solo exhibition at the Cincinnati Art Museum in 1911.”

Water Lilies by Alice Schille on view at the Riffe Gallery in 1993.Schille was born Aug. 21, 1869 in Columbus and graduated from Central High School in 1887. From 1891 to 1893, she attended the Columbus Art School (now known as Columbus College of Art and Design), where she taught until 1948. She continued to be involved in her hometown by exhibiting five one-person exhibitions at the Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts (now the Columbus Museum of Art) in 1912, 1919, 1923, and 1932.

“Through her extraordinarily fluent watercolors, she brought back to the Midwest a visual record of her discerning study of European modernism and introduced a new aesthetic vocabulary to a generation of students and admirers,” wrote James M. Keny, co-owner of Keny Galleries and co-curator of the 1993 Riffe Gallery exhibition Alice Schille: The French Legacy. On view at the Riffe from May 22 – Aug. 21, 1993, The French Legacy thoroughly explored some of Schille's most captivating watercolors from Normandy to Le Puy to the Pyrenees to French North Africa. Schille was an avid traveler—she was among the first wave of artists from the United States to Mexico—and letters and diary entries describing her travels to foreign destinations were incorporated among more than 60 of her compelling watercolors.

Alice Schille’s personal journal displayed at the Riffe Gallery.The Columbus Museum of Art’s current exhibition also showcases samples of Schille’s personal writings about watercolor. Her notes on technique include instructions to “represent the color at once frankly and fully” and to “create more freely and more forcibly.”

While she was alive, Schille was recognized as “one of the best of America’s women painters,” but it can be argued that she was one of America’s best watercolorists, regardless of gender. According to the Columbus Museum of Art, “Schille earned acclaim from critics and fellow artists across the United States and Europe at a time when becoming an acknowledged professional artist was a particularly challenging path for women.” Schille died Nov. 6, 1955 in Columbus, but her legacy lives on.

To see Schille’s artwork in person, visit the Columbus Museum of Art until Sept. 29, 2019 or visit For more information on Alice Schille: The French Legacy, visit


“We should encourage adventure; the artist’s reward is in the adventure…” – Alice Schille, journal entry

The Ohio Arts Council’s Riffe Gallery showcases the work of Ohio's artists and the collections of the state's museums and galleries. The Riffe Gallery is located in the Vern Riffe Center for Government and the Arts, across from the Statehouse on High Street in Downtown Columbus. Like the Riffe Gallery on Facebook and follow us on Instagram and Twitter.

The Ohio Arts Council is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically. Connect with the OAC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or visit our website at


Article by Alexa Demyan, 2018-19 OAC Riffe Gallery Marketing and Exhibitions Fellow
Featured photo: Le Puy by Alice Schille. Painting was displayed in the 1993 Riffe Gallery exhibition, "Alice Schille: The French Legacy"

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