Rural Hours: Watercolors by Susan Fenimore Cooper Weil

Susan Fenimore Cooper Weil (1922-2013), Summer Barn, ca. 1985. Watercolor. Private Collection.

Rural Hours: Watercolors by Susan Fenimore Cooper Weil
September 21 - December 29, 2013

Evocative watercolor landscapes record Susan Fenimore Cooper Weil’s lifelong love of nature and the outdoors. At first glance, her images seem to be straightforward representations of barns, houses, and rolling hills. Underlying them is a complexity and mystery that bring these works to life. They make an emotional statement about the importance of the land to Weil, as well as the importance of preserving the rural way of life.

A lifelong water-colorist, Weil was truly a talented member of Cooperstown’s founding family. She was named after her ancestor, Susan Fenimore Cooper, the daughter of novelist James Fenimore Cooper. Like her namesake, Weil had a deep appreciation for Cooperstown’s Otsego Lake and the surrounding countryside. She kept a copy of Susan Fenimore Cooper’s book, Rural Hours, on her bedside table for much of her life, as a source of inspiration.

Weil began painting with watercolors in the early 1950s. Her earliest works are of the landscape near McLean, Virginia. She also painted coastal scenes of Maine and the Caribbean, as well as portraits of family, imaginative scenes, and nature studies. Most of her work, though, depicts Otsego Lake and the local rural landscape.

Weil grew up surrounded by art and was particularly influenced by her father, the sculptor Henry Sage Fenimore Cooper. Weil was inspired by Andrew Wyeth’s paintings, and the influence of other American artists, such as Winslow Homer, Grant Wood, and Edward Hopper, is also apparent in her work, especially in her more voyeuristic and lonely paintings.

From the loose, impressionistic scenes from Virginia, to the minimalist tree studies from her later career, Weil was an accomplished watercolorist who employed traditional as well as innovative techniques. These painterly works were complimented with more illustrative works such as the proposed New Yorker magazine covers she made in the 1970s. Weil, who passed away in April 2013, continued to paint up until a few days before she died.