Edward Christiana

Edward Christiana [1912-1992]

It is regrettable to me that I never met Edward Christiana. By the time I began my employment at the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute in 1999, Mr. Christiana had long since passed on. It is my belief however that one can garner an insight into the man just by looking at the large body of work that the artist produced.

Edward Christiana was born in White Plains, New York in 1912. After high school the artist enrolled at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, graduating in 1933. After returning to the Mohawk Valley and obtaining work he enrolled in the School of Related Arts and Sciences at Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute. In 1940, noted WPA artist William Palmer came to MWPAI to establish the School of Art, forerunner of the current Pratt at MWPAI. Mr. Christiana became involved with the School almost immediately and studied from 1941 until 1943 under Mr. Palmer, at which point he became an instructor himself and remained in this capacity until 1982.

It was apparent at a very early stage in the development of Ed Christiana as an artist that he had a tremendous facility in the difficult medium of watercolor. By 1945, he had exhibited with the American Watercolor Society and did so again in 1947, 1949, and 1950. Mr. Christiana was even awarded the coveted William Church Osborne Purchase Prize in 1949 and 1950.

He had his first one-man show at the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute in 1946, and would be so honored twice more; in 1954, and culminating with a major retrospective in 1989. By 1949 he was elected to the American Watercolor Society. He was represented in a group show at the Kraushaar Galleries in New York in 1951 and in another major one-man show at the Albany Institute of History and Art in 1956 where he received a purchase prize in oil.

Strangely, after all of his early success in watercolor, he abandoned the medium in the early 50's to concentrate on oil painting. For over two decades he painted primarily in oil ranging from cubist inspired studies to his Marsden Hartley-inspired paintings of Mount Katahdin in the 1970's.

By the mid 70's he had returned to watercolor. He was once quoted as saying "those who are familiar with my old paintings will be aware, I am sure, that in fact, they were not so far removed from watercolor, my technique in oils deriving positively from the aqueous medium."

In the 1970's his watercolor style changed from the more wet and spontaneous style of the 40's to a dryer, slightly more controlled style, where the artist would often paint on dry paper, without wetting it prior to the application of paint. In the early 80's he returned to a wetter style, even more spontaneous than his method in the 40's. This culminated in his abstract work of the late 80's inspired partly by John Marin. Also, like Marin, Christiana painted representational work alongside very abstract work during the same period.

Fellow artist Easton Pribble once said of Ed Christiana "If there were to be an honorary title -Painter Laureate- of the Mohawk Valley, Edward Christiana would certainly be the prime qualifier for that distinction." Christiana is known for his landscape views of the Mohawk Valley, her wild natural beauty as well as the architectural beauty of her towns and cities. He has also painted extensively in the Adirondacks as well as New Hampshire, Vermont, and especially Maine, which can almost be considered the artist's second home. He loved to paint the pastures, valleys, rivers, and waterfalls of the area as well as children playing on the grounds of his beloved Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute and the neighborhoods surrounding it in Utica, New York.

Edward Christiana painted almost right until his death in 1992. He was and still is a beloved man. No one I have talked to has had an unkind word to say about Ed Christiana, either as a teacher, artist, or friend. He was a prolific artist and was known to hand paint Christmas and Birthday cards for his friends and co-workers. He is still a favorite amongst collectors in central New York, as well as northern Vermont and Maine.

Mr. Christiana is represented in such notable private collections as IBM, Utica College of Syracuse University, and University of Delaware. He is in the collections of The Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute where he was recently published in a book of our watercolor collection; as well as The Albany Institute of History and Science; The Everson Museum, Syracuse, NY; Currier Gallery of Art, Manchester, NH; Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, MA; and The Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts, Columbus, Ohio.


Bateman, Aaron J.. Biography of Edward Christiana. Utica, NY. registrar@askart.com, 1999.


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