Professors at Art Opening

Professor Knecht’s New Art Exhibit

Written by Minte Christiansen

From taking my art classes, I knew the Hillsdale art department had loads of talent. I’ve learned a lot of techniques and styles from my professors, but I rarely think of them as artists outside of the classroom bubble. All that changed when I saw Professor Sam Knecht’s new exhibit, From the Studio and Beyond, in the Daughtrey Gallery on campus.

As an exhibit in Hillsdale’s Professional Artists Series, From the Studio and Beyond displays more than fifty of Knecht’s paintings, many of them painted over his sabbatical last fall. Since I’m still new to painting, I can hardly imagine perfecting one painting over the space of a semester, let alone nearly fifty.

Professor Knecht had been the art department chairman at Hillsdale College since 1978, but in 2013 he retired from that position and instead became a regular art professor. After switching positions, Knecht went on his sabbatical, hoping for relaxation and plenty of time to paint, and he found inspiration in the wildernesses of northern Michigan and Maine, and even humble Hillsdale County.

“Inspiration can endlessly be found in nature,” Knecht tells the gallery in the brief explanation posted near the door. “Continually I find myself enthralled by skies, vistas, and even glimpses of small events outside.”

Although Knecht favors landscapes with bodies of water—sunsets over the ocean, trickling brooks in hidden forests, and Michigan shorelines—he also produced a handful of idyllic farmhouse and church scenes, as well as a few beautiful portraits. He is a master of both oils and watercolors, and his delicate details are astonishing. I had to look twice to make sure Enduring, a watercolor of a church, wasn’t a photograph.

When asked how he painted all the nuances of the waves in his painting Sea Watcher, Knecht remarked, “Knowing how far to the left and right to go [with the waves] just became intuitive… a little here, a little there.” The water is incredibly realistic and detailed, and his casual yet brilliant intuition amazed me and everyone else looking at the painting.

Despite the stunning beauty and convincing realism of his landscapes and country scenes, my favorite painting in the gallery was called Co-Regents of the Veranda. Using oils on linen, Knecht painted his twin daughters lounging on a porch, deep in reading. I love the summery feel of it, and the intent looks on the girls’ faces mirror anyone who has ever been totally enchanted by a book.

Elizabeth Davis, a sophomore art major, has taken a few classes with Knecht, and she really enjoyed all of them. She loves his new exhibit and is really impressed by his talent, but she also highly values his commitment and work ethic.

“He challenges me to do better,” Elizabeth told me. “When I’m in class and I want to stop a project, even though it’s not perfect, because I’ve already spent so much time on it, he tells me I should keep working.” Sam Knecht’s dedication to perfection shines through in his own art, and I was able to see all the gorgeous rewards of his hard work in his latest exhibit.

Minte Christiansen is a sophomore majoring in English with minors in Art and Classical Education. She is involved in the Eta Sigma Phi Classics Honorary and the Residence Life team on campus.