Fred Schnider Gallery Presents John Alexander Steele Chicago/Washington

By Editorial Team on July 12, 2021

Sat, 26 June 2021 - Sat, 21 August 2021

John Alexander Steele, Veridian and Teal Blue, Oil on canvas, 25” x 38”.
On View: June 26 – August 21, 2021

The Fred Schnider Gallery of Art (888 N. Quincy Street, Arlington, VA) opened its exhibit, Chicago/Washington on Saturday, June 26th. Chicago/Washington showcases the work of mid-century artist and premier art restorer, John Alexander Steele during two significant periods of artistic exploration. One was during his time at the Art Institute of Chicago where he created anthropological works of sculpture-like paintings inspired by the artist, Paul Klee. The other was Steele’s abstract study of color and form during his time with the Washington Color School.

It was as a student at the Art Institute of Chicago that John encountered Paul Klee’s anthropological works executed on Swedish putty. Klee reinforced John’s devotion to the natural world and perhaps inspired John’s series of works on frogs, birds, owls, and sometimes imaginary creatures. John’s early work, from the 1940s through the 1950s, reflects these influences, including his high relief, Frogs on Leaves which won a prize in 1956 at the Art Institute’s renowned annual show, Exhibition Momentum.

In the 1960s John devoted most of his time to abstract painting, energized by the work of a group known as the Washington Color Painters. These artists exhibited at the Washington Gallery of Modern Art, which in 1965 held the historic exhibition, Washington Color Painters. Stimulated by these creative minds—and informed by the technical information they provided—John continued to explore various techniques, always making careful studies before completing his finished paintings.

About the Artist: John Steele was a born artist whose journey took him from the shores of Lake Michigan to the banks of the Potomac. At the Art Institute of Chicago, from which John graduated in 1953, he excelled in drawing. He studied the Old Masters, Impressionists, Pointillists, Post-Impressionists and others. His keen imagination, curiosity with form, color, found objects and various techniques like Swedish putty exploded into award-winning works that were uniquely John’s.

Curiosity, discipline and inventiveness remained John’s lifelong hallmarks as an artist. He experimented with gouache, sand, and fireplace ash from his Scottish uncle’s cabin to create imaginative images of owls, fish and frogs. From Scotland, John moved to New York and then Washington, where his long associations with Abstract Expressionists and Washington School colorists continued to inspire new work that reflected his unique vision. There is invariably a discretely unexpected color or curve that sneaks into an otherwise classic abstraction.

In 1973, John opened his own art conservation studio in Georgetown, where his skill and expertise won the attention of museum directors and art galleries, as well as Washington and New York art luminaries like Andy Warhol. In 1984 John retired from his conservation work. He never stopped painting until shortly before his death in 2017.

That John’s work is finally returning to the public eye sixty-six years after he won so many early accolades at Chicago’s 1955 Exhibition Momentum is a tribute to his talent, his vision, his love for painting—and the love and determination of his wife, Lina Abt Steele who has brought his work into the light once again.

The Chicago/Washington exhibit runs June 26th through August 21st, by private tour. Those wanting to view Chicago/Washington are welcome to call the gallery at 301.852.8042 to schedule a private tour of the exhibit within the weekly hours of Thursday-Sunday, 12-7pm.The gallery requests that visiting groups not exceed more than six people.

Fred Schnider Gallery of Art – 888 N. Quincy Street, Suite 102, Arlington, Virginia (, 301.852.8042.