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Neil P. Frankenhauser

1939 - 2019
Neil P. Frankenhauser Obituary
(News story) LIMA, Ohio - Neil P. Frankenhauser, a Toledo-based artist and teacher whose expressive paintings have been displayed by hundreds of collectors and institutions across the country, died Sept. 18 while in hospice care at Mercy Health St. Rita's Hospital in Lima. He was 79.

His health was declining over the past year after he suffered a stroke, son Nicholas Frankenhauser said.

While he taught art at several universities across the country, Neil Frankenhauser was known for his own creations that had eye-popping-colors, said his girlfriend, Terry Blackhawk. She described him as a creative, affectionate, and authentic person.

"He has a wide range of topics, themes. You just go into his paintings and you feel like you're in something. They feel like they're pulling you in," said Ms. Blackhawk, the author of several collections of poetry and founder of Detroit's InsideOut Literary Art Project.

Ms. Blackhawk said some of her most recent work was inspired by Mr. Frankenhauser, and the cover of her book One Less River includes one of his paintings.

Mr. Frankenhauser's work is also displayed across the country and in Toledo, including two large murals at the Toledo Zoo.

The first mural of a misty rainforest scene was completed in the reptile house, his son said. At the former carnivore house, now a cafe, Mr. Frankenhauser painted various jungle scenes in the cage areas, his son said.

The artist enjoyed painting landscapes and landmarks of the Toledo area, but his favorite painting spot was on the river at Sidecut Park, where he would sit for hours to observe and paint the scenery, Nicholas Frankenhauser said.

"He was really a talented artist," the son said. "His work really speaks to people who enjoy nature scenes, but it wasn't photo realistic, it all has that expressive element in there, that not everyone connects with. He was an artist, that was his self."

Individual works also are owned by more than 200 private collectors and institutions including Luther College in Decorah, Iowa; Cathage College in Kenosha, Wis.; Evansville Museum, in Evansville, Ind.; Cleveland Art Association; Owens-Illinois Executive Collection; Toledo Trust Collection; and the Toledo Federation of Art Collection.

Mr. Frankenhauser exhibited in more than 130 regional and national exhibitions since 1961 and he won more than 25 awards throughout his 51-year career. He participated in 35 group invitational exhibitions since 1965 and held 75 solo exhibitions since 1961, including a 1987 exhibit with Kay Weprin called "Earth and Myth: Real and Imagined."

Born Dec. 22, 1939, in Chicago to Theodore Frankenhauser and Agnes Heppner, he moved with his family to Toledo when he was 4 years old and grew up in South Toledo, graduating Central Catholic High School in 1958.

"My first canvas was a wall, a freshly painted wall that my father had done. I took it to mean that he had done it for me. So apparently, my first subject matter was a burning house," Mr. Frankenhauser said in a 2016 'Eye on Art' interview with Matthew Mickel. "I must have seen it someplace. My mother was thrilled because it was such a nice drawing of a burning house. My dad, on the other hand, was not so thrilled because he had just freshly painted the wall."

He graduated Bowling Green State University with a bachelor of fine arts degree and completed his education with a master of arts and a master of fine arts from the University of Iowa.

After he obtained his Iowa degrees, Nicholas Frankenhauser said, Mr. Frankhauser received several job offers to teach art history, but the artist turned them down.

"He thought teaching art history was the most boring thing. He loved teaching the hands-on," the son said.

Mr. Frankenhauser instead took a job as an administrative assistant at the University of Wisconsin and was later hired to teach full time at Western Kentucky University, where he discovered his love for painting landscapes, his son said.

After three years, he then took a job at the University of Akron, where he spent eight years. He then moved to California to teach at Fresno City College for about a year.

After the year in Fresno was when he returned to Toledo to the University of Toledo, the Toledo Museum of Art, and the Monroe Community College Whitman Center.

"His painting was always described as his self-expression. He always said he never painted for anyone else. That's one reason he felt he was successful commercially because he didn't paint things that he knew would sell, he painted things that he wanted to paint. If he sold a painting, that was great, but he wasn't willing to compromise what he felt his artistic expression was for money," Nicholas Frankenhauser said. "He was an excellent art teacher as well, he really loved it."

Mr. Frankenhauser is survived by a former wife, Laura Gretzinger; his sons, Nicholas and Nels Frankenhauser; daughter, Heidi Frankenhauser; and seven grandchildren. He was preceded in death by a brother and two ex-wives.

A memorial art show will be held at a later date. Notes of condolences and tributes for the art show may be sent to the Miller Funeral Home, 1605 Celina Road, St. Marys, OH 45885.

This is a news story by Allison Dunn. Contact her at [email protected] or 419-724-2134.
Published in The Blade on Oct. 7, 2019
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