January 19th, 2021

Pisko and Riethman

By Submitted Article on February 25, 2020.

By Mary-Beth Laviolette

Born in Täegerwilen in northeast Switzerland, Ernest Riethman’s first formal acquaintance with art was as an apprentice painter and decorator in nearby Germany. Later, after the First World War, he studied for three years at the Academy of Art in Basel and two years at the Industrial School of Interior Decorating and Painting.

During this time Riethman also joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a life-changing decision. In 1922, he married the Zurich-born Clara Schorno and with their first child, Ruth, immigrated to Canada in 1924. Their destination was southern Alberta.

Very little of Riethman’s art is found in public collections. With a few exceptions, the following paintings and works on paper have been generously loaned by family and friends to the Galt Museum for “A Painter’s Paradise.”

A first-generation Lethbridge artist of seven decades, Michael Pisko’s name was synonymous with the city’s art scene. He organized, he mentored and most of all he painted, creating a substantial body of work about southern Alberta. Enriched with a deep sense of place is a selection of 26 oil panels for “A Painter’s Paradise,” a phrase which he himself coined.

Pisko was one of the original members of the Lethbridge Sketch Club, beginning in 1937. Ten years later, he was accepted into the ranks of the Alberta Society of Artists. He was a prolific artist, estimating at one time the completion of over 300 paintings.

Like his fellow Sketch Club colleague Ernest Riethman, Pisko made a living through commercial art. He designed and painted signs, murals, logos and other visuals for his award-winning City Sign Company.

As with his commercial art, simplicity was a key feature of many of Pisko’s paintings. Mood was also important no matter what the size of the painting, such as the field sketches here on display. It is no coincidence these outdoor works are of a similar size used by his painting hero A. Y. Jackson who, seated at an easel high above the coulees, once demonstrated his outdoor technique to Sketch Club members. The location for this impromptu lesson was just west of the Galt Hospital, now home to the Galt Museum & Archives.

Come explore “A Painter’s Paradise” at the Galt Museum & Archives, on display until May 10.

Your old photos, documents, and artifacts might have historical value. Please contact Galt Museum & Archives for advice before destroying them.

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