Online Staff Report
MONROE, Wis. — How does an artist residing in Glarus, Switzerland, come to exhibit his work in Monroe, Wis.? In July 2012, artist Walter Lehmann sent a sequence of e-mail inquiries to various contacts throughout Green County regarding an exhibition of his “cow portraits.” His messages were forwarded to the Monroe Arts Center, and as the saying goes, “the rest is history.” From May 9 through June 20, Lehman’s “Whimsical Cows” will be on exhibit at Monroe Arts Center’s (MAC) Frehner Gallery.
Walter Lehmann has been painting and exhibiting his artwork for almost 50 years. When he came to realize that dairy cows were not often shown in art, the cows that graze the pastures of Switzerland became his primary subject matter.
“Every day, we consume milk, yogurt, cheese, bread and butter, and we enjoy the cream in our morning cup of coffee, and yet somehow the cow has received very little attention in art,” notes Lehman, who says he finds great joy in painting cows in their natural form and expression. His paintings evoke the emotions of the animals, bringing their feelings to life with the colorful palette of the artist’s inner world.
Lehmann draws inspiration for his “cow paintings” from the work of expressionist artists like Kandinsky, Macke, Marc or even Kirchner. He loves the colors, the dynamism and the feel that one finds in nearly every expressionist work.
It is obvious that Lehmann loves cows. When asked how he goes about preparing for a painting, he explains: “They depict almost human characteristics: they are curious, timid, trusting, funny and photo-friendly. They are never rude, shy or mean-spirited. I am able to perceive all of this while photographing them on the pastures in Switzerland.” He photographs his cows, chats with them, touches them — he loves his cows — resulting in portraits that are full of sensitivity.
He continues: “If you touch and pet the trustful cow, it will always lick back with its raw tongue. I must be careful, though, when touching a timid cow. It will sniff you with a stretched neck; but if you dare you make one movement in its direction, it will feel provoked enough to kick you. One must be very patient with a curious cow. You have to speak to it in soft tones first to pacify it, only then is it safe to touch it. The funny one reciprocates by pressing itself against your hand. And then finally, the photo-friendly lady will look at me proudly so that she appears in all her magnificence before the camera lens.”
In addition to art, Lehmann has pursued varied professional careers in the fields of architecture, journalism and education. His first art exhibit was held in his hometown of Glarus, and since then, he has exhibited throughout Switzerland. His exhibit, “Look at My Cow,” took place at the Swiss Embassy in New Delhi, India, in 2010.
Lehmann will be traveling to the United States and spending time in Monroe, Wis., during the exhibit. The public is invited to meet him at the opening reception from 5 to 7 p.m., Friday, May 9, in MAC Frehner Gallery, with a brief gallery talk at 5:30 p.m.
Posted May 7, 2014