Jerry Pfohl, Artist

By Gretchen Abendschein

Jerry Pfohl grew up in Bradford, a small town in western Pennsylvania. He developed his skills as an artist at a very young age.

Jerry’s mother had an older sister named Margaret who had a photography studio in a building that had been a cow barn on the Pfohl’s property in Bradford. Margaret shared the barn studio with a friend who was an artist, named Gertrudis Brenner. When Jerry was four years old Gertrudis set up an easel and paints for Jerry in a corner of her studio and allowed him to paint, with one condition: that he would only interrupt her to ask questions about painting.

Jerry began painting seriously as a young teenager the summer before he went to Hotchkiss, which at the time was a boys’ boarding school, in Lakeville, Connecticut. There was just one art class each week at Hotchkiss, but Jerry painted whenever he had a bit of spare time. The art teacher at Hotchkiss, Tom Blagden, quickly became aware of Jerry’s interest in art and would take Jerry to art exhibits and to meet other artists. After his freshman year, Jerry won all the art awards at Hotchkiss and was the first student to have a one-man show during his senior year.

After he graduated from Hotchkiss, Jerry traveled to Paris to study with French artist Conrad Kickart. Jerry then went to London and studied at the Anglo-French Arts Centre.

Following his art studies in Europe, Jerry returned to the United States and served in the US Army for two years during the Korean War.

When Jerry reported to his infantry company he and the other soldiers had to salute the Captain, state their name, serial number and civilian job. When the Captain heard that Jerry was an artist he said, "Good, we can use you." For months Jerry wondered where an artist could possibly use his talents in an infantry company. After their first week in the field on maneuvers the Captain called Jerry into his office and asked, "Are you the artist?" When Jerry responded, "Yes, sir," the Captain told Jerry to paint a sign to be posted on a filled trench stating "Latrine Closed". Thus began Jerry’s sideline career as an Army artist painting signs and posters during his years in the service.

Jerry also began carving pipes when he was in the Army. He couldn’t carry a sketch book around with him, so he kept a small block of wood in his pocket that he would carve with a pocket knife whenever he had spare time.

Jerry got married soon after he was discharged from the Army. He returned to London with his young wife to study art at the Regent Street Polytechnic. Jerry completed two years of required study then took the exam for Britain’s National Diploma of Design. Jerry won first class honors in the National Diploma of Design, as well as a silver medal for being the best student in art school and a gold medal for best student in the college.

After he completed college in London Jerry traveled back to the US with his wife and baby son where they settled in Brattleboro, Vermont. Jerry taught art at Putney School from 1955 – 1960. During that time he and his wife had a daughter and another son.

While Jerry was teaching at Putney School the owner of Janet Nessler Gallery, on Madison and 64 th Street in New York City, had heard about his artwork and called to arrange a time to see his paintings. Shortly afterward, Janet Nessler visited Jerry’s studio in Vermont and walked off with most of his work for her gallery, including a painting on his easel that was still wet.

Jerry moved to Manhattan in the early 1960s after his first marriage broke up. He had a one-man show at Janet Nessler Gallery and was invited to show his work at the Butler Institute, the most prestigious annual show of contemporary American art in the country.

In the mid-1960s Donald Pollard, a representative from Steuben Glass, saw Jerry’s paintings in Janet Nessler Gallery and asked to meet Jerry. He was looking for an artist who could render detailed drawings for an engraved glass piece. Jerry accepted the commission to draw mythical scenes for the glass engraving on a small casket called The Myth of Adonis which was designed by Donald Pollard.

The Myth of Adonis was featured in a Steuben show in 1984 celebrating their fiftieth anniversary of business on Fifth Avenue, where the piece was voted best in show. The Myth of Adonis was also featured in the following publications: a book titled Five Master Works by Steuben Glass, the October 1984 edition of Smithsonian Magazine and the November 5, 1966 edition of The New Yorker Magazine.

Jerry moved to Acworth in the summer of 1966 with his second wife and a few years later had two more sons.

In the early 1970s Jerry’s second marriage ended. He kept an apartment in Manhattan and spent weekends and summers in Acworth. During this time Jerry had an agent in New York and worked doing illustration. He also spent a year working as a blacksmith in New York with Richie Lichtenstein, who was a former resident of Acworth.

In 1978, after a long hike on the Appalachian Trail, Jerry decided to move back to Acworth fulltime. Stub Streeter helped Jerry get a job in the New Hampshire Artists-In-Schools program. Over the next many years Jerry worked as artist-in-residence at a number of schools throughout the state.

In the summer of 1980 Jerry started a summer school in his studio in Acworth. He met his current wife during the first session of his art school in July 1980.

For the last 28 years Jerry has continued to paint, draw, carve walking sticks and make zinc-plate etchings. He has had a number of regional shows and has sold his work mostly through galleries located in Vermont and New Hampshire, including Marcie Maynard’s former Three Rivers Art Gallery in Bellows Falls.

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