By Gail McCarthy
---- — When Arnold Knauth moved to Rockport in 1939, there was two-way traffic on Main Street and Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president.
At 94, Knauth has seen the rise and fall of many nations, and many technical advances. But the man has immersed himself in a timeless art form.
A painter for about 75 years, the walls of his Atlantic Avenue home serve as a historical record of time, both here and abroad. There is a watercolor painting of Main Street boasting the latest cars of the 1950s and a scene from Cuba in the era before Fidel Castro.
Knauth has been an artist member of Rockport Art Association since 1941, just 20 years after the organization was founded. The art association will hold a solo show of his oil paintings and watercolors with a free public opening reception on Sunday, March 24, from 2 to 4 p.m.
Born on New York City’s Upper West Side on Oct. 18, 1918, he attended boarding school in Massachusetts at the Middlesex School in Concord, and went on to receive art training at the National Academy of Design in New York.
He first landed in Rockport on his family’s schooner around 1935 when they stopped to visit the Beal family, including Gifford Beal and Reynolds Beal, both of whom became noted American painters.
“They suggested I study with Aldro Hibbard,” recalled Knauth, and he returned to Rockport in 1939 to do so.
“I was a goner after that. I just loved it and loved the life here,” he said, adding that he did not want to live in a big city. But his artistic pursuits were interrupted when he was drafted into the Army, in which he served 3 1/2 years during World War II. Much of that time, he spent in England and France.
Knauth grew up surrounded by fine art. His grandfather, G.H. Clements of Louisiana, was a noted painter. One large Clement canvas hangs in his studio, depicting a vibrant tribal dance scene from northern Africa. Also hanging in his house is a portrait of a Gloucester artist painted by Clements in August 1886, but Knauth didn’t recall the name of the artist.
An avid sailor, Knauth took long voyages as a child with his family and his grandparents, who took him and his two older brothers to Europe. He sailed to Greenland the summer of 1938 on a scientific expedition under Capt. Robert Bartlett aboard the Essex-built Effie M. Morrissey, now called the Ernestina.
“Capt. Bartlett asked me to do drawings of the mountain landscapes of Greenland,” he recalled.
Knauth owned the Mogi Poo for about 30 years before he sold the sailboat, which remains in Rockport Harbor with a new owner. Many of his paintings depict sailing vessels of all kinds on the open ocean, as well as harbor scenes and landscapes.
His memberships include the American Watercolor Society, the Salmagundi Club, the Philadelphia Watercolor Club, the North Shore Arts Association, Allied Artists and Audubon Artists of New York City.
Knauth won his first award around the age of 12. His school submitted one of his drawings to the 19th annual children’s drawing competition sponsored by John Wanamaker and he won a third-place medal. The drawing was of a deer on a hillside.
He was one of those children who always loved to draw and paint.
“Instead of studying in school, I’d be drawing a little picture of a schooner,” he recalled.
As an adult, in addition to studying with Hibbard, he studied with landscape artist John F. Carlson.
Knauth married an artist, the late Jerri Ricci, a watercolor painter and daughter of a sculptor, who lived in the house which the couple would later inherit. Her father, Ulysses Ricci, was a contemporary of the high-profile sculptors who summered on Cape Ann.
Knauth and his wife ran a gallery together for a number of years at both 12 Hale St. and 4 South St. in Rockport.
In addition to painting, Knauth is a master of many other endeavors. He does carpentry, including the making of model boats, which are displayed on his wall. He has made furniture. He plays piano.
“We used to sing a lot. People don’t do that so much anymore,” he said. He played in a little bar in St. Augustine, Fla., when he had a house there.
“We had a lot of parties. My wife and I also ran the Rockport Art Association ball for a few years after Aldro Hibbard gave it up,” said Knauth, who was friends with all the founders of the Rockport Art Association. He was friends with artists Emile Gruppe, Stanley Woodward and Anthony Thieme.
Knauth’s work encompasses hundreds of landscapes and seascapes both local and afar. But after a lifetime of painting, when asked at a recent interview if he still paints, he replied: “I have so many. I thought I’d done enough.”
Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3445, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go Who and what: Arnold Knauth Solo Show When: A free public reception takes place Sunday, March 24, from 2 to 4 p.m. The free show closes April 11. Where: Rockport Art Association at 12 Main St. in Rockport Details: Knauth, has been an Artist Member of Rockport Art Association since 1941. For more information, call 978-546-6604 or visit www.rockportartassn.org.