Clara Deike

(1881–1964), a painter & educator who received little attention during her

Lifetime, but today stands out as “one of the small handful of Cleveland artists, such as William Sommer, who advanced beyond skillful technique to embrace a modern idiom,” writes art historian Henry Adams. “Few Cleveland artists have produced such a body of accomplished and original work.” Born in Detroit, Deike grew up in Cleveland, attending Central High School, the Cleveland Normal Training School and—after a term at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago—the Cleveland School of Art (now the Cleveland Institute of Art). It was there she came under the influence of Henry Keller and Frederick C. Gottwald, Cleveland’s leading impressionist painter, who taught his students to paint en plein air, and to depict violet, luminous shadows. Grafton Nunes, CIA’s current president, calls Deike’s work “breathtaking.”


“There were not many career choices for a woman in the arts who needed to support herself,” writes Adams. After graduating from CSA in 1912, she taught art in the public schools for more than 30 years, until she retired in 1945. “She never married. Indeed, in this period” he notes, “women who taught school were not permitted to marry, and lost their jobs if they did so. Nine months a year she taught and painted a little on the side,” producing most of her now acclaimed work in the summers, but for several years her art was only seen at the Women’s Art Club, which she co-founded in 1912. “She never obtained one of the prestigious positions in the art world,” says Adams. “She always stood somewhat apart from the general art scene. She never joined the party crowd at the Kokoon Klub; she never joined the WPA; and she was not part of the artistic coterie who maintained studios in the Rockefeller Building in downtown Cleveland.”





Rhythmic Movement (1956) by Clara L. Deike (The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland Traveling Exhibitions Fund 1957.176)




She was encouraged by Keller, whose art school in Berlin Heights she attended from 1910 to 1920. And after the First World War, she studied briefly with the great modernist Hans Hofmann. In 1918 Lakewood Public Library gave Deike her first solo exhibition. But her reputation remained largely a local one. Indeed, her most faithful patron was Harriet Goodyear, her supervisor at Lakewood High School. But from 1919 to 1950, she showed her work in the Cleveland Museum of Art’s annual May Show, where it won praise “for its decorative qualities,” says Henry Adams, “but not for its sophisticated mastery of Cubist and Fauve techniques. The first significant appreciation of her work came in 1989, twenty-five years after her demise, when Helen Cullinan of The Plain Dealer wrote a warm appreciation of a retrospective show of 25 paintings organized by the Vixseboxse Gallery in Cleveland Heights.” Examples of Deike’s art, which has been exhibited by Wolf’s, Bonfoey’s, Tregoning’s and other galleries and still commands formidable prices online, can be seen at