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Published: Tuesday, 3/30/2010

Local artist renowned as impressionist

BY JIM SIELICKI
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Beckmann Beckmann
THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Helmut "Pete" Beckmann, 81, one of the area's most successful impressionist painters who had emigrated from Germany after World War II to find work as a pipe fitter, died Saturday of bone cancer at Flower Hospital's Ebeid Hospice Residence in Sylvania.

Mr. Beckmann sold 3,000 to 4,000 of his paintings, mostly impressionistic interpretations of land and seascapes, flowers, and cottage gardens to individuals, decorators, and businesses.

"Pete is probably Toledo's greatest impressionist landscape painter … and there's been a lot," said fellow artist Larry Golba, a member of the Toledo Tile Club, a group of arts-minded people formed in 1895.

Margot Beckmann, his wife of 58 years, said he was given a diagnosis of brain cancer three years ago, which ended his career.

"He's had every cancer there was," she said. "He was not bitter. He said, 'I had a good life.'•"

Born in Koblenz, Germany, he attended the German Naval Academy as a high school student during World War II. The war ended when he was 16, his wife said.

His trade was pipe fitter, but drawing and painting were closer to his heart.

In an April, 2008, interview with The Blade, Mr. Beckmann said that as a child during World War II, he drew cowboys. When bombs destroyed his home, he painted bomb-shelter walls with images of castles he'd seen around Koblenz.

In the 1950s, with housing in short supply, he and his wife moved in with his grandmother in Dusseldorf, which set into motion events that led to his leaving his homeland.

One day the couple slipped into a restaurant and overheard people discussing plans to move to Canada, where jobs were available. "So we listened in and signed up to go," his wife recalled.

The couple landed in Edmonton, Alberta, but "by the time we got there, there were so many pipe fitters, he did not get a job," she said.

Unhappy with Canada's bitter cold, they took a German friend's advice and moved to Toledo.

He studied engineering at the University of Toledo, then switched to art, taking night classes at the Toledo Museum of Art. He'd work construction during the day and paint at night, Mrs. Beckmann said. "He had this gift," she said.

In 1967, he made the leap to work full time as an artist, opening Frames and Fine Arts Gallery at 1604 Sylvania Ave.

He taught classes at home and in his gallery, mentoring young artists and influencing many budding artists with whom he shared his secrets and techniques, Mrs. Beckmann and Mr. Golba said. "So many people would come and say, 'I learned so much from you,'•" his wife said.

By 1983, when his art was being sold at galleries around the country, he moved into a gallery at Common Space 1.

Mr. Golba said Mr. Beckmann had a "tremendous influence on area artists. As a teacher he was very willing to share his technique and style of painting."

Mr. Golba said Mr. Beckmann often held painting demonstrations.

"The first demonstration I was at was when I was doing my student teaching," said Mr. Golba, a retired Bedford High School art teacher. "I was 21 and he was 41, and I latched on to him. I visited him at his gallery, just to see his paintings.

"He had an intense sense of perspective and composition," Mr. Golba said.

Survivors include his wife, Margot Beckmann, son, Michael Beckmann, daughter, Patricia Beckmann-Wells, and two grandsons.

Funeral services, handled by Dowling Funeral Home, were private. The family suggests contributions to the Northwest Ohio Food Bank.



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