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Episode 13: The View from the Road to Balltown

graphicam admittedly nostalgic when it comes to the subjects of my paintings. I admire the great American impressionists, the Hudson River School, the Taos Group. I also love the regionalists, Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton, and Dubuque's own Cy Ferring. I have books and prints just full of inspiration from these eras.


My art education began as it did for nearly all people my age, in elementary school art class. Mrs. Schultz, my 7th and 8th grade art teacher, would hold up flashcards of famous paintings and we had to name the artists. Since we lived just 45 minutes from Chicago's Loop, we field tripped to the greatest American art museum in the world, the Chicago Art Institute. The collection of just the French Impressionists is mind blowing, but their American masters collection is among the best in the world of art. I'm excited just writing about it and want to return as soon as I can. It is thrilling beyond description. I just can't get enough.

I discovered something interesting as I grew up and developed my appreciation for art and later graphic design. Many of the artists I loved lived not far from where I spent my childhood in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. Ivan Albright was from nearby Warrenville, Illinois. Illustrator Walter Haskell Hinton lived and worked in Glen Ellyn! When I worked for John Deere for 19 years, I frequently traveled to the headquarters in Moline where I saw the greatest corporate collection of Grant Wood paintings and prints ever assembled. I was so close to these great inspirational artists and didn't fully realize it at first.

The View from the Road to Balltown, the subject of this painting is a fitting tribute I think to my late father-in law, Francis Breitbach. The Great River Road between Dubuque and Balltown, Iowa, was his favorite. He and my mother-in law, Leona, had memories and stories about every farm along the route, and we never tired of them. Often, as we traveled to Balltown to eat at Mike Breitbach's (a relative) restaurant, there would be new stories told as memories were jogged by a particular house or barn that came into view. I miss Francis terribly.



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