John Ellsworth Weis

"Alford", Oil on canvas, 27x22 in, c. 1920, signed lower right

"Alford", Oil on canvas, 27x22 in, c. 1920, signed lower right

This strong portrait depicts a Native American student of the Art Academy of Cincinnati.

(American, 1892 - 1962) 

Biography

Born in Powell County, Indiana, John Weis became a painter of varied output that includes regional scenes of Ohio, shaded New England and French streets, still lifes, and portraits.

He moved at a very young age with his family to Higginsport, Ohio and then when he was age nine to Norwood, Ohio. The early death of his father and the struggle of his mother to raise the family were lasting influences on the young man who at age fourteen enrolled in night classes at the Cincinnati Academy. He worked during the days at many jobs including at a lithography shop, as a sign painter, a soda fountain clerk, and an electric coil winder until he was able to enroll full time in the Academy. His teachers were so impressed that he was offered a job on the faculty when he was age twenty-two. He held this position for thirty-eight years.

However, he spent time serving in the military during World War I and then returned to the Academy. He traveled widely in Europe, spending much time in Paris in the 1920s and associating with prominent Cincinnati artists Elizabeth Nourse and James Hopkins. He also traveled widely in the United States including Taos, New Mexico; Provincetown, Woodstock, Rockport, Gloucester, Massachusetts; and Booth Bay Harbor, Maine. He married Sally Cuthbert, an Academy student, who became a prominent instructor at the College of Design at the University of Cincinnati.

In 1957, Parkinson's Disease forced him to retire from the Art Academy, and in 1962, he died from a fall at his home. He had been a vital part of the Cincinnati community for forty years.

Text by Allen W. Bernard, Ph. D