Over a century of painstaking collecting by two ardent and prolific artists/collectors has produced a great collection of artwork in the Walla Walla Valley.
A rare opportunity to view these collected works that have been hidden from the public will be offered with a free viewing from 4-7 p.m. on Friday, June 25, at 301 E. Aeronca St., near Walla Walla Regional Airport.
The viewing presents pieces from the collections of Ikune Sawada and Neil Meitzler.
Meitzler’s work has been exhibited at the Sheehan Gallery on the campus of Whitman College. But he fell ill with pancreatic cancer and was unable to attend. He died in 2009.
A Walla Walla exhibit of Sawada’s art sold out at the Combine Art Collective before the coronavirus pandemic hit in 2020.
Sheehan Gallery director Daniel Forbes provided a statement on the pair with details about their collections and artistic talents.
Sawada was a noted Seattle-area painter before retiring to Walla Walla in the early 1990s.
Born in 1936, Sawada earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Kyoto University of Art, Japan. He became an independent and successful antiques dealer, specializing in ceramic arts.
In the late 1960s, Sawada moved to Seattle, where he continued his work in antiques and ceramic restoration at Globe Antiques and Mariko Tada. His encyclopedic knowledge of Asian, European and American art pottery was quickly recognized and is still held in high esteem by many important collectors of ceramics and porcelain in the Northwest region, Forbes said.
Pieces from Sawada’s extensive collection of American art pottery include Catalina, Fulper, Muncie, Van Briggle, and Bauer vases and works by George E. Ohr, Mary Frances Overbeck, and Toe Coleman.
Many Japanese and Chinese ceramics and porcelain are on display, including some dating from the 17th century: a 19th century Seto folk aburazara oil plate, dishes from Nabeshima, and Japanese wares from Imari, Satsuma, Hirado, and Kuntani.
There are also paintings, scrolls, screens, and a variety of Ukiyoe prints by master artists like Hiroshi Yoshida, Utagawa Kuniyoshi, and Shibata Zeshin. There are several cloisonné pieces, including a 20th century urn made by Kayiosha with a Japanese poem on its base. Another highlight is an 18th century suzuri-bako inkstone box and a lacquer writing box with pewter patterned dogs on its lid following the Rimpa school and in the style of Korin.
Sawada was an award-winning gardener and bonsai enthusiast, which means there are many specialty bonsai-related items, such as a number of his suiseki/scholar stones and 19th and 20th century bonsai planters – many are tokoname jars.
A number of American paintings and prints will be on display, chosen by Sawada’s keen aesthetic eye. These include a small print by Guy Anderson, an oil by Hawaiian painter D. Howard Hitchcock, and a colored pencil drawing by Helmi Juvonen.
Local artwork included is that of Squire Broel, Laura Lee Holmes, Norman Adams, Margaret Jamison and former Walla Walla University Studio Art Faculty, Ken Mackintosh and Martha Mason.
Sawada’s own works have been exhibited at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle, the University of Washington, the Tacoma Art Museum, Western Washington University’s Museum, the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, and the Springville Art Museum in Utah.
His paintings are in the collections of the Seattle Art Museum, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Brooklyn College in New York, Art University of Kyoto, Whatcom County Museum, and Tacoma Art Museum, as well as in many corporate and private collections.
Several works from the studio collection of the Seattle artist Meitzler’s estate will be on display.
Meitzler never received formal schooling in the arts. In 1953, at the age of 23, he won his first prize for painting at an art exhibition for Boeing employees where he was a draftsman. He moved to the Seattle Art Museum as a jack-of-all-trades and eventually worked as the Seattle Art Museum’s principal exhibition technician and designer for over 20 years.
In 1954, Meitzler met established Northwest School artist Kenneth Callahan, who mentored him and introduced him to other important Northwest School artists, including Mark Tobey, Morris Graves, and Guy Anderson. Eventually counted among them, Meitzler became the youngest member of the Northwest School and one of Seattle’s mystical painters, Forbes said.
In 1959 Meitzler received a solo exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum and over the years has exhibited widely throughout the Northwest.
His work was featured at the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair and he has exhibited regularly at the Zoe Dusanne Gallery in Seattle, the Gordon Woodside Gallery and the Foster White Gallery. Known to many as “the waterfall painter”, his imagery was diverse and often quietly autobiographical. He remained active in his studio practice until just before his death from cancer in 2009.
Former Washington State Governor Dan Evans gifted one of Meitzler’s paintings to the Imperial Household of Japan. The Seattle Art Museum holds five of his paintings. His work can also be found in the collections of the Portland Art Museum, the Whatcom Museum of Art in Bellingham and Whitman College.
Meitzler was an eclectic collector. Deeply interested in the lumber industry, he amassed an abundance of vintage wood-themed postcards and photos, including a 1901 photograph by Darius Kinsey of a cedar stump house in Edgecomb, Washington.
Other artifacts collected by Meitzler include pre-Columbian vessels, Greek ointment pots, South Asian miniature paintings, Kamasutra pages, and a page from the Nuremberg Chronicle.
Meitzler has collected a bit of everything, and the viewing will include East and West Coast Native American artifacts, including baskets, boxes and paddles. Hand-stitched vintage Japanese kimonos, including one from the 1940s with an American flag pattern, and a stunning 94-inch by 58-inch Persian-Aubusson design bedspread, are just a few examples of his collected textiles.
Many of the pieces he collected were hidden treasures unrecognized by others, such as an 1830s Country Americana pewter briefcase; From Roman glass to 17th century wood panels; and several objects that also hold stories related to the Seattle Art Museum and its founder Richard E. Fuller.