William Sommer (1867-1949), American artist best known for his watercolor paintings, other works on paper, and murals inside buildings in the Cleveland,Ohio, area. Sommer’s art, heavily influenced by Paul Cezanne, generally consists of portraits and rural scenes.
Sommer was born on 18 January 1867, in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Joseph and Christina Zoph Sommer. He attended Washington Public School in Detroit from 1873-1881. Sommer attended weekend drawing classes taught by Julius Melchers, from 1878-1883, beginning his interest in art. From 1881-1888 Sommer served an apprenticeship at the Calvert Lithograph Company. From 1888-1890, Sommer was a journeyman at the Bufford Company, of Boston, Massachusetts.
Sommer went to England in 1890 with the Dangerfield Brothers. From 1890-1891, Sommer studied in Munich with Professor Herterich’s School of Art. Sommer returned to New York City in 1892 and worked for the Ottoman Company and several other lithograph companies. In 1894, Sommer married Martha Obermeyer. Sommer moved to Cleveland in 1907 at the invitation of William M. Brewer of the Otis Lithograph Company, where he worked until 1929.
In Cleveland, Sommer became involved with the art scene. In 1912, he helped found the Kokoon Art Club. In 1918, Sommer did the costumes and décor for the Cleveland Play House production of Everyman. Sommer met poet Hart Crane in 1919, beginning a life long friendship.
In the 1930s, as part of the Public Works of Art project, Sommer did many murals. In 1933, Sommer painted a mural in Public Hall, Cleveland. In 1934, Sommer created perhaps his best known murals, in Brett Hall of the Cleveland Public Library. Other murals include: the Post Office, Geneva, Ohio, 1938; the Board of Education Building, Akron, Ohio, 1941; and Community Church, Boston, Ohio, 1944.
Martha Sommer, William’s wife, died in February 1945. William Sommer died on 20 June 1945.
The Cleveland Museum of Art, Art Institute of Chicago, and Akron Museum of Art all have significant collections of Sommer’s art. Sommer is the subject of Sunday Morning Apples by Hart Crane, one of the best written descriptions of Sommer.