Erma Wheeler

1915 - 2005

Erma Allen, later Erma Allen Wheeler, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1915 and in 1925 moved with her family to White Plains, New York. Later in life, she would comment that her "parents' background and expansive temperaments gave (her) more independence than if (she) had been raised in New England." Around 1932, her father, Miner Allen, inherited property on Pleasant Street in Rockport and Erma and her siblings began spending summers on Cape Ann.

Here on Cape Ann, Wheeler's artistic skills quickly caught the eye of established Rockport artists, among them Samuel Hershey who urged her to attend art school. Heeding his advice, Wheeler enrolled at the Art Students League in New York (where she studied under John Sloan) and the National Academy. Summers on Cape Ann, she worked under Hershey and fellow Rockport artist W. Lester Stevens.

During the 1930s, Wheeler's work was strongly influenced by Hershey and fellow artist Jon Corbino and was characterized by a heavy dark palette. Her preferred medium was oil. Later in her career, as she concentrated on watercolors, Wheeler's own style emerged, a style which was characterized by brilliant, gemlike colors that often look like sun coming through a stain glassed window.

Selected works by Erma Wheeler

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