The works of artist Hans Meyer-Kassel have hung in universities, homes and even castles around the world, and now many are on display at the Nevada Museum of Art. Meyer-Kassel settled in Genoa, where he lived the last chapter of his life, and captured the beauty of the area. Our reporter Holly Hutchings has more.
Walking through Genoa with H. William Brooks is like getting a history lesson in small town Nevada. He came here as an infant when his Uncle Hans and Aunt Maria took him in and raised him. He lives on the same property, just off State Route 206, that was once his uncle’s art studio. It has been his home for over 70 years.
“Hans and Maria bought this place in 1945 and I came here shortly thereafter, within a few months," Brooks said. "And they raised me. I was about 4 months old.”
Before landing in Genoa, Hans Meyer-Kassel trained at the University of Munich and excelled in a formal academic style of painting. He was a prolific and widely known artist in his home country of Germany but immigrated to the US for a better life. He lived in New York and other places, but Brooks says in his later years, the pull of the quiet and vast mountain ranges drew Meyer-Kassel to the valleys of northern Nevada.
“Hans found the subject matter, the landscapes and that's what he's famous for, the portraits and the landscapes and that's what people value the most," Brooks said. "He finally found Shangri la here in Genoa. It's the first home they ever owned. And here he found the peace and tranquility that he sought throughout his life and that's reflected in his work now.”
“He had just witnessed two world wars, his hometown of Kassel had been obliterated during WWII," said Ann Wolfe, senior curator at the Nevada Museum of Art. "The University of Munich and Munich had been destroyed during WWII bombings. So he had seen much of the landscape that had informed his entire life destroyed before his eyes.”
As part of the exhibition, curators and spectators gather to hang a large piece of Nevada Governor Balzar. Workers delicately roll it out, place it on the wall and take exact measurements until it’s centered.
The museum is borrowing this portrait of Governor Balzar from the state capital. Meyer-Kassel painted many portraits, including that of four Nevada governors and three from California.
Wolfe worked closely with Jack Bacon, guest curator for the exhibit. Brooks called on Bacon to appraise his inheritance. Bacon spent an intense year researching the artist. He realized there were more Meyer-Kassels than he expected. In just 18 months he found about 400 paintings in private collections.
“I think he fell in love with the lighting, the light in Nevada and the coloration and the mountains and the deserts," Bacon said. "If you look at his paintings there's a lot of color. He painted many of his works in the springtime. You can see a difference between his paintings in Germany and his paintings in Nevada. It definitely evolved into a brighter, more impressionistic style of painting.”
Meyer-Kassel’s works have quietly been hanging in homes all over Nevada and California for decades. Bacon and coordinators have pulled them together and formed the current exhibit. Longtime Reno resident and fellow artist Renate Neumann has two of his works, one of which hangs now in the exhibit. The other one, a calming landscape of lush lilacs, has been in her home for nearly forty years.
“I was so impressed because I'm an artist also and it's very hard to paint lilacs, to simplify them and he just did a wonderful job in doing that," Neumann said. "So that was the first painting of his that I acquired.”
Along with the exhibition, there’s also a monument to remember the painter. Meyer-Kassel’s nephew Bill Brooks shows where it’ll go.
“The monument will be located, to my understanding, right about here. I never thought I’d experience this, but it’s finally come to fruition.”
With the recent attention, the memory of Meyer-Kassel seems to be as bright as one of his landscapes.
The monument will be dedicated on the grass of the Genoa Courthouse Museum Saturday, May 19 with the ceremony and festivities lasting from 1-3 p.m.
Holly Hutchings is a graduating senior at the Reynolds School of Journalism.
As a note of disclosure, the Nevada Museum of Art is an underwriting sponsor of this station.