The Eisele Gallery of Fine Art: A Cincinnati Tradition

March 25th, 2014  |  Published in *, March 2014, Profiles

by Laura Hobson

From “The Indian Chief” by Henry Farny to “Mending the Nets” by Dixie Selden, The Eisele Gallery of Fine Art offers outstanding paintings from the 19th and 20th centuries. Owned and operated by President/Chief Executive Officer Doug Eisele since 2005, the gallery features works by both living and deceased artists. In addition, Eisele founded Old World Restorations, Inc. in May 1978 which offers restoration and conservation of art and antiques.

The gallery and Old World Restorations share a synergy providing a variety of services to clients. “I never second guess a client’s interest,” said Eisele. “If it is an heirloom family piece or a painting by a well-known artist, we can clean it as well as restore it,” he explained. OWR follows the standards of practice and codes of ethics established by the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, using only sensitive, reversible methods and materials that do not harm or alter the original work

The gallery has a wide range of services, providing art consultants and advisors, art evaluations and insurance appraisals, art restoration and conservation, lectures and events. Artists on consignment include Howard Behrens, Edward Marshall Boehm and Cole Carothers. Eisele also carries American Impressionists, Taos and Hudson River School artists on consignment. Ten restorers with varying degrees work on clients’ projects. With a strong reputation, the gallery serves hundreds of clients nationwide.

Eisele purchased the Patricia Weiner Gallery on the corner of Montgomery and Cooper Roads in Montgomery as well as the Archival Conservation Center on Daly and Galbraith Roads. Self-taught, he has created an organization where he enjoys working with the artists and his clients, from whom he learns. “They have helped me develop an eye for quality paintings,” said Eisele. In addition, he studies the technique, hand and palette of an artist. Having a conservation background of 36 years and a high school education from Mariemont High School, he has come to understand artists and their work. “Every time I look at a painting, I analyze it,” said Eisele.

Newcomers to the art world often ask Eisele for advice. Working with them, he identifies reasons for collecting, including investment, then has them focus on education, identify a few artists they like, doing research, going to art shows, reading magazines and looking at sales records. He suggests that young collectors buy what they love. “I learned the hard way,” said Eisele. Now, he can impart his wisdom to others. “Art speaks for itself,” he commented. “It is a great way to pass the wealth,” Eisele said. Some clients have set up foundations to transfer art to their children.

At age 55, Eisele lives with his wife Terry Rye Eisele in Indian Hill. They have two daughters, Sarah, 19, and Katrina, 23, both of whom have grown up with art surrounding them. Four years ago, there was a show of 100 paintings by T. C. Lindsay (1839 – 1907). Eisele received a call from his daughter Sarah, who said, “Please promise me you don’t sell any paintings from the house.” “She got it,” said Eisele. “We collected because the paintings spoke to us.  I didn’t come from an artistic family,” he said, but he remembered going to auctions on farms with his parents.  Now, he works regularly with auction houses in New York, including Christie’s and Sotheby’s.  He also deals with individuals or estates buying or commissioning paintings.

Daily, Eisele receives calls from artists and clients for appraisals or advice.  He prices paintings by deceased artists at a 10 to 30% commission rate and living artists at 50% commission.  Over the years, Eisele has established relationships with the artists he represents.  In addition, he does both residential and commercial work.  They differ in that with the first he works directly with collectors; with commercial assignments he works with designers, architects and often the management team. In addition, he works with young artists and collectors regularly.

He chose an historic building in Fairfax built by Joseph Ferris in 1807 as his headquarters.  Taking ten years to build it, Ferris chose the Greek and Federal revival architectural styles which remain today.  “The destination gallery is a good fit for the building,” said Eisele.  Parking is free and the gallery is conveniently located on Columbia Parkway close to Mariemont near his clients in that suburb, Terrace Park and Indian Hill.

Eisele creates a balance of old and new artists for his clients.  Although his passion is 19th and 20th century painters, he also features twelve living artists such as Jeff Morrow, Cindy Nixon, John Ruthven and John Stobart.  “We carried on what Chuck and Pat Weiner started,” said Eisele.  Newer artists like to see their paintings next to older paintings, according to the owner.  He features approximately six shows every year, two of which display works of living artists.  He delights in helping his clients build their collections consistent with what they own.  Eisele is also starting to create a market for miniatures as a niche.  “True collectors never stop,” he said.  “We are sticking to our core business of early 19th and 20th century paintings,” Eisele noted.

In September, the Eisele Gallery will host the Eastern Regional Exhibition of the Oil Painters of America show.  A national juried show, the exhibition of traditional oils will be displayed from September 12 to October 9, 2014.  Eisele plans to have collectors attend from all over the country with bus tours available.  Following that is a show featuring works by Frank and Diane McElwain, tentatively scheduled for November 7 and 8, 2014.  The McElwains are well-known Cincinnati painters who specialize in local scenes and botanical subjects respectively.

Eisele works with private collectors and businesses, such as Procter & Gamble, where he has restored paintings.  He also assists corporations selling art rather than growing collections.  His best-selling living artists are John Stobart and John Ruthven, who had a show along with miniaturist Robert Off at the gallery from November 15 to December 31, 2013.   Of the deceased artists, he names Edward Potthast, T. C. Lindsay and Henry Mosler as best sellers.

Although the slowdown in the economy affected art sales, art purchases are now setting records.  Eisele’s paintings are priced in the $5,000 to $100,000 range.  Collectors often use the Mei Moses index, which is similar to the New York Stock Exchange, containing fine art tracking records. In 2013, the Mei Moses index surpassed the NYSE.

The Internet now provides greater accessibility to people who want to know more about art.  The door is open worldwide for collectors who are often well-educated and informed.  Eisele notes that seldom is there an impulse buy over $10,000.  Buyers do their homework.  “The ease of information helps with appraisals by keeping information at our fingertips,” said Eisele.  Sales of artwork can be researched through online auction sites.

With over 1,200 paintings in his inventory, Eisele often works with appraisers and attorneys to help settle estates and tax debt.  He continually rotates the paintings to provide a wider range of art for his clients.  Soon, he will co-sponsor an art law seminar.  Getting ready to expand with open rack rooms and a custom framing showroom, the gallery will have an opening in Junefor his preferred clients.

Known throughout the art community, Eisele works regularly with area organizations such as the Cincinnati Art Museum (CAM). In addition, he enjoys checkimg out provenances and the background if a new work comes his way. He has a network of people with whom he works as art experts to authenticate a painting.  “I learn a lot from my clients. They know more than I do,” he said. “People love to talk about their art.”

Other institutions with which he works includes the Cincinnati Art Dealers Initiative.  He is also involved with the local Cincinnati Art and Antiques Festival, which is moving to Music Hall this year from Sharonville Convention Center.

With art openings now including other activities, such as juggling, he feels something is taken away from art if additional events are thrown in the mix.  As a result, he will hold private showings for a few clients.  He notes the trend where galleries are doing what they can to attract people, particularly young professionals.  Sometimes “viewed as an antique shop,” Eisele Gallery is taking steps to educate younger collectors to the art environment.  “We maintain a level of sophistication,” said Eisele.  “Step back, chill out and enjoy the art,” commented Eisele.

Not only is he interested in art, but also in antique classic art cars.  Recently, he has taken up sailing and loves antique boats.  Another hobby is skeet shooting at the Indian Hill Gun Club.  Out of the ordinary, Eisele met dozens of amputees at Walter Reed Memorial Hospital and served on the USO Tribute Committee, for which he raises funds.  “It was a life-changing experience,” said Eisele.  “These people are resilient.”

For Eisele, his work is a labor of love.  And his passion shines bright.

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