A Passion for Nature: The Art of William E. Scheele

Submitted by Susan Miller on Wed, 10/08/2008 - 12:44.
10/15/2008 - 17:00
10/15/2008 - 21:00

Museum Exhibition Showcases Works of Nature Artist, Former Director

Cleveland . . . A new Cleveland Museum of Natural History exhibition highlights the artistic legacy of the late William E. Scheele. The retrospective exhibition “A Passion for Nature: The Art of William E. Scheele,” goes on display in the Museum’s Fawick Gallery Oct. 15. The exhibition runs through Jan. 11, 2009.


Scheele’s artwork includes drawings, paintings and illustrated books. His works reflect his love of nature, from detailed studies of plants and animals to images of prehistoric life and wilderness landscapes. Many paintings are related to Ohio wildlife and Museum-related subjects. Artwork in the exhibition is arranged chronologically and recounts his life’s story.

Scheele was born in Cleveland in 1920. He later graduated from Western Reserve University and the Cleveland School of Art. He served in World War II from 1942 to 1946 as an officer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and received a Silver Star for action in support of Gen. George S. Patton’s Third Army.

In 1949 at the age of 29, Scheele was appointed director of The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, a post he would hold for 23 years. Under his leadership, the Museum’s programs and collections were greatly expanded. Scheele supported field expeditions that resulted in major acquisitions including a Haplocanthosaurus delfsi giant sauropod dinosaur in 1954. In 1958, Scheele helped move the Museum from its original location in an old Euclid Avenue mansion to its present home in University Circle.

The Museum’s world-renowned collection of Devonian marine fossils was expanded as researchers excavated the shale exposed during the construction of Interstate 71 in the 1960s. Scheele was also instrumental in the acquisition of the Hamman-Todd Osteological Collection of human and non-human primate skeletons, which has become one of the world’s most studied Museum collections.

Scheele was an early advocate for conservation and environmental issues. He developed innovative Museum programs and publications, such as The Explorer, a quarterly magazine edited by his wife, Joann, for which he wrote and illustrated many articles. Several examples of this publication are included in the exhibition.

Scheele wrote and illustrated seven books on natural history, which will also be on display. His best known, Prehistoric Animals, The First Mammals and Prehistoric Man and the Primates, were written for young adults. The dynamic illustrations in these works excited the imaginations of his readers. Throughout his adult life, Scheele heard from individuals whose exposure to these books as young people had guided them toward professions in the natural sciences.

During the early days of the contemporary environmental movement, Scheele was a voice for issues related to the natural world. He brought influential scientists and thinkers to speak at the Museum. Concerned about changes to the land locally, he acquired Fern Lake, the first parcel of land in what is today the Museum’s Natural Areas Program. Scheele’s efforts and ideas helped shape the Museum into the world-renowned institution it is today. In 1972, Museum trustees awarded him the Museum’s most prestigious honor, the Harold T. Clark Medal, in recognition of his outstanding service to the Museum.

When Scheele left the Museum in 1972 to head the World Wildlife Fund in Washington, D.C., a reporter from The Cleveland Press wrote, “For nearly a quarter of a century, William E. Scheele has been the local prophet, expounding the beauties of nature and warning us about the evils we are doing to our surroundings.”

“A Passion for Nature: The Art of William E. Scheele” is sponsored by The Louise H. and David S. Ingalls Foundation. The exhibition is included in the Museum’s general admission fee: $9 adults; $7 ages 7-18, college students with IDs and seniors; $6 children 3-6. Wednesday evening admission is $5 after 5 p.m. Shafran Planetarium shows are $4 per person with admission.

The Cleveland Museum of Natural History is located at 1 Wade Oval Drive in University Circle, just 15 minutes east of downtown Cleveland. Museum hours are: Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. and Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information, call (216) 231-4600 or 800-317-9155. Visit the Museum’s Web site at www.cmnh.org.



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Bill Scheele talks about his Dad's work on WCPN

The clip begins here at about 19 minutes in: Around Noon October 7, 2008

We remember the late William E. Scheele whose artwork is on display at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, as Dee talks with his son Bill Scheele of Kokoon Arts Gallery

Still nice work

And your aura is all over it  :)  Thank you for bringing recognition to the work of William Scheele and the founding of the environmental movement in NEO.

that's the CMNH release

I just posted what they sent out and an image I got from Bill Scheele.

But let me say that as I researched this man, William G. Scheele, I was astounded to learn that this smart kid who grew up on Tate Avenue in Cleveland and studied at West Tech with Jean and Paul Ulen.

I learned that he and his wife were privileged to be involved in the Cleveland Municipal School District's Major Works programming.

I learned that he later went on to Cleveland School (now CIA), who (at least once) hunted with John Paul Miller and Paul Travis, hung out with,  studied with and alongside some of the most famous artists of the Cleveland School.

I learned that he published many books, had an intense interest in educating children and wrote for the Cleveland Press for years.

I learned that he insisted that the museum begin conservation efforts - purchasing land for biologists and botanists to study, got the federal government to insist that museum archaeologists be allowed to dig in the wake of the I-71 project where they found Devonian fossil fish (Scheele himself had occupied many of his youthful years digging in the remains of the Whittlesey Indians in just that area).

I learned that he was responsible for bringing the Hamman Todd Collection and the Warner Swasey Telescope from CWRU to the Museum.

I learned that when you enter the museum you are to turn left and begin at the beginning of time, traveling chronologically to the last exhibit which suggests that, as you used to look into a mirror surrounded by images of extinct animals, you are looking at the most dangerous animal on the planet.

I learned that his staff adored him because he hired smart people in whom he saw promise and "let then work". I learned that among those people who were inspired by him are Larry Isard, Jim Bissell, Harvey Webster, Bruce Frumker and many more.

I learned that Scheele's passion for nature and his determination to protect and conserve, to teach and to tell the story of our responsibility to our home was contagious among museum staff and visitors. 

Maybe one thing that Scheele knew from his historical research was this old chestnut: "when we stand on the shoulders of our ancestors, we can see farther".  Likewise, it makes sense to me that as the CMNH embraces conservation, sustainability and environmental awareness anew, they might do well to consider - if you anchor
yourself in a legacy, you will have a strong trunk to support new branches. 


digging Cleveland

Cleveland Shale that is.

Today's news about Cincinatti paleontologists digging on Cleveland's west side comes at an interesting time. I met a few members of realneo last night at a fascinating talk at Greta Lakes Brewing Company's tasting room for their Science Cafe.  Last night's talk was about Paleontology and featured vertebrate paleontologist from CMNH, Michael Ryan, and Catherine Badgely of University of Michigan.

Because Cleveland will host the 68th annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, both this Science Cafe and the Scheele show are well positioned to remind scientists of the importance of Scheele's early direction and leadership of our museum. 

Go Science Cafe! Way to use collaboration to bring this event and others to the notice of more of the unsuspecting public (like me).

Here's a photo of the famous Dunkleosteous found during Scheele's tenure. 

This was once swimming in your backyard! Yikes!

if you missed it - Scheele on Scheele

If you missed this show at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, I think you may be able to see some of the show at Kokoon Arts, owned by the curator and son of the late William Scheele.

Worth a looksee. Opening receptions on Friday and Saturday

Also on display at Kokoon - Alfredo Arreguin

This will be the first time Alfredo Arreguin has exhibited in the Cleveland region.  He was born in Michoacan, Mexico in 1935, and has lived and worked in the Seattle, Washington area since 1956. Alfredo is regarded as America’s premiere “Pattern Painter” and is honored to have numerous paintings in collections around the United States and Mexico. 

“Arreguin’s intricate andbrilliantly colored canvases are informed by the memories of Mexican cultureand natural landscape as well as the environment and the animals of the PacificNorthwest. The hypnotic and meditativepatterns found within his paintings are based upon pre-Aztec images, Mexicantiles, or purely geometric and optical patterns. Alfredo Arreguin’spictorial works inhabit an elusive zone that lies between the real and the marvelous, between dream and wakefulness. All that is magic, the ungraspable, acquires, shape, form and color on his canvases. Yet mystery never ceases; something always remains hidden there. Thematically and aesthetically, Arreguin’s art establishes a beautiful and harmonious bridge that connects human experience with the dreams and concerns of individuals from diverse cultures.”

From Alfredo Arreguin: Patterns of Dreams and Nature, by Lauro Flores