In this November 1968 photograph, M. Charles Rhinehart, right, chats with Gustav F. and Hazel Goetsch, who were the guest artists for the annual Missourian Art Show that year. Rhinehart had served in the same capacity in 1966 and did so again in 1971. (Southeast Missourian archive)
One day a week, Big Sis and I volunteer a couple hours of our time helping out at Heritage Hall, home of the Kellerman Foundation for Historic Preservation, at the northeast corner of Main and Themis streets in downtown Cape Girardeau.
Usually, our minds are focused on the documents we are indexing, but the newest exhibit at the hall is proving a bit distracting. Who wouldn't be distracted, surrounded by the astonishingly beautiful works of M. Charles Rhinehart, a well-known artist from Ste. Genevieve, Missouri?
The current display -- "M. Charles Rhinehart: A Journey Through Eight Decades of Artistry" -- offers patrons a view of Rhinehart's long career, from his earliest works as a 19-year-old, self-taught painter, to his most recent masterpiece: a massive landscape that takes your breath away. (I still say the latter would display nicely over my living room sofa!)
Rhinehart was born in Cantwell, Missouri, on Oct. 10, 1930, the son of Milton and Lena French Rhinehart. A program from the 1971 Missourian Art Show describes him as "something of a phenomenon in that he has achieved recognition and popularity for his abstract paintings not only in metropolitan, so-called 'sophisticated' centers, but also in the more conservative heartland of the Middle West. His studio and home have been in Ste. Genevieve for many years, but he has traveled far afield, gathering inspiration for both abstract and realistic work from such divergent places as icy Alaska, the Dakota Badlands, and the great open spaces in the Southwest..."
Over the years, Rhinehart showed his work in Cape Girardeau numerous times, including the Missourian's own annual art show. But it's been a while since Cape Girardeans have been able to view his paintings here and, hopefully, they'll turn out in droves to see these collected works, as well as personal mementos of the life of Charles Rhinehart, and his wife, Levetta, an artist in her own right.
The Rhinehart exhibit will stay up for 45 days. The hall's normal hours are Thursday through Saturday, from noon to 5 p.m. Special arrangements can also be made for groups or individuals to view the display privately.
Below are two newspaper articles I pulled from the Missourian's clip file, the first about the couple's move to Cape Girardeau in 1977 and the second about Lavetta Rhinehart's art.
Published in the Bulletin-Journal, Aug. 25, 1977.
RHINEHART RETURNS TO SET UP GALLERY AND PAINT HIS WAY THROUGH CAPE
An artist often fills many roles. He is the lecturer who speaks with brush and canvas, paints and glazes. He is the hunter who captures moments, moods, and expressions. He is the magician who conjures up illusion and reality.
Yet, an artist must be more than his tools, he must be a master of creation. And for over 28 years, M. Charles Rhinehart, a well-known artist originally from Ste. Genevieve, has displayed a mastery to his paintings which number over 1,000.
Rhinehart has painted in every state west of the Mississippi and has most recently managed a gallery and studio in Wyoming. However, he and his new wife, Lavetta, have returned to Southeast Missouri to set up a combination gallery, studio, and home in Cape Girardeau.
Perhaps Rhinehart, a self-taught artist, is best well-known for his unique lighting technique. Paintings which display this technique seem to glow with a translucent light. Many admirers have referred to it as a spiritual or ethereal type of lighting, according to Rhinehart. Mrs. Ron Bowers, an area resident who owns three of his works, commented that Rhinehart's paintings appear as if "they've been plugged in."
This special "life-giving" technique was self-developed through the years. It is done entirely with a brush, although not an air brush, and completely free hand. After examining a few of his paintings, this technical power may seem truly amazing.
Several residents here own original Rhinehart paintings as well as many private collectors throughout the U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii, and abroad. Some of his paintings have been purchased by collectors in China, Israel and South America.
Although Rhinehart has painted throughout the West, he enjoys painting in Southeast Missouri. "Basically, I'm a landscape painter and some of the most beautiful country is in Cape Girardeau and surrounding areas. We have the atmospheric conditions here we don't have out west that lend to a romantic and dramatic type of painting. This is especially true now with the beautiful sunsets," he said.
He added that Wyoming was a different type of romanticism that was more forceful. "This area displays a more gentle, a more subtle romance."
Rhinehart paints both glowing abstracts and photographic-like realism. He contests that whether painting be done realistically or abstract, both kinds contain an abstract quality. "One leans more to a material existence while the other leans to an airy existence, which makes it appear more abstract in other people's minds," he explained.
"People usually think of using realism to convey an idea. Yet they are still dealing in abstract qualities. And if an artist is painting and does not achieve that abstract quality, he or she has nothing more than a hard, cold rendering of an object or objects," he stressed. He noted that abstract was a word that could be spelled in many ways.
When asked if he considered going abroad to paint, he replied with a forceful "No! Even with the 1,000 paintings I have done, I've only scratched the surface. If a person is truly an artist, he could take one acre of land, spend a lifetime painting there and never run out. I have so many more things to paint here."
At the present time the Rhinehart's are not certain where their permanent studio/gallery in Cape Girardeau will be. They do plan, however, for the studio, gallery and home to be at one location. "It will be a gallery in the sense that my wife's and my work will be displayed in our living room. It will be a place for people to come, sit, enjoy and purchase if they want to," he said. They will not be handling other artists' work at their gallery.
They hope to to have the multi-purpose home completed by the first or middle of October, according to Rhinehart. Also there are plans to offer several classes in the studio for area residents. Instruction will e offered in the theory of light, landscape and still life painting. They have previously taught many classes, including some in Cape Girardeau and Sikeston.
While Lavetta Rhinehart paints in three or four different techniques, she does not paint as her husband does, they both agree. Mrs. Rhinehart paints figures and portraits, for the most part.
"I use an object only to say something, not to expound on the subject itself," she said. Her husband compared it to the philosophy of Picasso, who said, "By telling lies on the canvas, we get at the truth."
While both like to paint large paintings, their styles are clearly different. "I don't use abstract like my husband does. I also like to paint animals, figures and head studies."
An artist indeed fills many roles. He is the teacher who instructs technique and style. He is the doctor who probes and stimulates the minds of his audience. And he is the craftsman who molds and shapes life to fit on stretched canvas.
Lavetta Rhinehart (Southeast Missourian archive)
Published in the Southeast Missourian, March 12, 1978:
A 20TH CENTURY ARTIST IN RESIDENCE
By MARY L. SPELL
Missourian Staff Writer
Lavetta Rhinehart, 20th century artist, surrounds herself with a quiet atmosphere that induces inspiration. Overhead lighting plays on the paintings covering the studio-gallery walls, casting shadows on the subdued works of art, and emphasizing the boldness of others at East Cape Rock-Country Club drive junction.
Utilizing natural light, the artist creates beside a large window, where her seven-foot high, heavy wooden easel stands.
"The best time for me to paint is in the late afternoon or evening. I conceive and perceive best at these times, but I am forcing myself to paint earlier to use the natural light. It's discipline."
Painting, reading, studying and writing, sometimes up to eight hours a day, for a 12-week period, the artist has discovered a conscious awareness.
"I have found multi-dimensional realities," she said."And, through my studies, my world has become the opposite of what I thought it was.
"I have come to accept that some of the most depressing periods are the strongest points of growth when they subside. Technically and inspiration wise, you grow.
"The longer the growth period, the more you learn," Lavetta said, tucking her feet under her on a batik printed couch set in the middle of the gallery.
"It is difficult to realize that when you come out of the depression, you will be better off."
Painting, Lavetta said, can be terrific, terrible, joyous, or depressing. What is painted is caused by the individual and the cycle he is going through at that time.
Lavetta uses all art media when she paints, watercolor, pencil, pen and ink, oil, charcoal, and chalk. Of those, oil is her favorite.
A subdued, delicate effect is prevalent in many of Lavetta's paintings. However, when asked about the possibility that a division in the art world exists between men and women because of the delicate nature of a painting or a subdued, versus a bold stroke, she noted that as long as the painting is strong in composition, technique, and inspiration, it doesn't say, "woman."
"It could be a pitfall for some women if their work is lacking in any of those qualities, but I do not believe you notice a male or female stamp in art."
Lavetta said she "got serious" about painting after her last child was in school. She began studying the works of many artists and attending art classes.
"I don't believe in copying another artist's style, but I feel it is all right to study it; so I do.
"I began learning about painting from a street artist called 'Oh By Golly" in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. He wore bib overalls, a black felt hat and painted store windows. I followed him around all one summer. He made me want to make brushes and paint my world."
I learned little technically from 'Oh By Golly,' but I feel that aspiration takes precedence over technique.
"To really excel, one has to have technique, but without inspiration you don't have a chance."
Lavetta said that she did not grow up in a "cultured" family, but by the age of 5 she knew she was going to paint.
"One day I smelled the strong odor of oil paint and saw a picture in my mind. I had never smelled oil paint and didn't understand the meaning of the intense feelings I was experiencing at that period of my life. I just knew that I was to be a master. I am still not certain if I am to be a master of art of master of life, but I am striving to create and live each day as if it were my last."
The artist stared pensively across the room to3ward her books and easel and a shadow crossed her dark probing eyes as she spoke. "I enjoy my paintings and my books because I share them."
"Many times I read aloud to my husband for hours and sometimes we paint together. There is a void in your life if you can't share." Lavetta's husband is the noted artist, Charles Rhinehart.
"Is it so spectacular that there are so many unhappy people in the world? They never learned the joy of sharing."
When Lavetta is not painting or studying, she writes. "I write about me-you-everybody," she said. "My writings are sometimes vague, but no, they do have form and system. I like them."
"I love to study because it's fun. I am now in the process of learning how to utilize energy. This is important in a stress-induced world so that one doesn't come apart at the seams."
"To be master of anything, one must first become master of oneself. We create our environment through thoughts and emotions."
"I never title my paintings because many times I put down spontaneously and instantaneously on canvas what it may take years for me to understand why I painted it."
"The only time I would title a painting would be if I went to the canvas with a particular concept in mind," Lavetta said.
Answering a question about the different areas of art, Lavetta said that the fine arts are higher in emotional and inspirational levels than the purely technical illustration type art.
"When I go to the canvas, I pour myself into it. The brush strokes may not be perfect, but I can convey a particular feeling."
"Anyone can create if they have enough enthusiasm and emotion."
"Your thoughts create your reality." End of in-depth study of Lavetta Rhinehart, American Woman Artist, 1978