John Wehmer

b. 1927

John Wehmer is a St. Louis Guy. Born in that Missouri River city, he has spent his entire career there and was fortunate to attend Washington University at a golden moment for both the city and contemporary art. In 1946, after service in the U.S. Navy, Wehmer began his art studies in earnest at the University of Missouri in Columbia with Fred Shane. A year later, searching for a more progressive program he returned to St. Louis and found a home at Wash U. amidst an incredible faculty that included over time Philip Guston, Max Beckmann, Paul Burlin, Carl Holty and Werner Drewes among others. The canvases and woodblock prints that Wehmer was able to produce in this period of the 1950s and early 60s — far from the avant-garde in New York — are both remarkably beautiful and astoundingly original.

St. Louis had a thriving contemporary art scene in the 1950s, sort of a Gotham in Fly-Over land. Both the St. Louis Art Museum and the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City supported contemporary artists with exhibitions and awards. In St. Louis wealthy collectors such as Morton May and Joseph Pulitzer Jr. bought work by local painters. In 1965 a cooperative art gallery called the Painter's Gallery (of which Wehmer was a founding member) opened and became the scene of many elegant exhibitions and receptions. I am from Kansas City and started my art dealing career in Missouri, yet I had no clue about all this modern art Mecca across the state.

At some point in the 60s Wehmer became disillusioned with the commercial gallery scene and put these canvases away, where they remained out of sight for over forty years. Dealer Melissa Williams approached Wehmer in 2012 about showing this work again and after much initial resistance, was able to convince him to bring the paintings out and into the critical light. Thank God! We invite you to study these muscular works of art — not really Abstract Expressionism, but something altogether original. We have prepared an informative 52 page catalog that is available on our Publications page or at the gallery.