By Jan Ohrmundt
Hague artist Katharina Bergdoll uses her lifelong love of nature to capture the peace and quietude of Virginia’s landscapes. Her work will be showcased at the Westmoreland County Museum’s next Art and Wine event that opens Nov. 20 at 5 p.m. at the museum with an artist’s reception until 7 p.m. Several pieces will also be on display next door at the Inn at Montross where refreshments including wine will be available.
While rural landscapes are her preference, her collection includes urban landscapes, still lifes and a few portraits. Her style, she reflected, “has evolved over the years from more impressionist to post-impressionist,” and has been influenced by her affinity with the natural world. Indeed, organic gardening and growing fruit trees, have long been part of her life. Of her innate appreciation of nature and how it has affected her art she said, “I think it’s all of a piece. To have an integral understanding of what makes up a landscape there is no better way than to get to know trees by planting, growing pruning, nurturing and harvesting them. I find that trees, especially the old ones, have distinct characters, much like people.” On her current property in Hague she enjoys a magnificent towering magnolia, dogwoods, rhododendron, fig trees, raspberries , and pear, plumb, cherry and apple trees. There is even a large old maple “bee tree” that fell in a storm, but since the bees survived, she’s keeping the tree just so they can keep their home.
Bergdoll was born in West Chester, Penn. but to Virginia’s benefit, soon after moved with her family to Charles City County, where the “large property with plenty of wilderness” that she grew up on fostered her love of the outdoors. She recalled that attending school always seemed too confining. “I would much rather have been out roaming the woods and fields, or fishing,” she said with a laugh, saying that even during grade school, she’d draw pictures to pass the time, something her teachers allowed because she aced the lessons and kept up her grades. Upon graduation from Gloucester High School in 1966, and with the help of her brother, Erwin, a New York City artist, she obtained merit scholarships to attend four years of classes in The Big Apple with Leon Kroll at the National Academy of Design, School of Fine Art, and at The Art Students League of New York.
Returning to Virginia she lived in the Williamsburg and Matthews areas for a dozen years, honing her artistic skills and renovating an old general store to be her residence, workshop and art studio. The next 22 years she lived in Richmond where she renovated, rented and re-sold “fixer-uppers” to provide the regular income needed to pursue her art.
But country life still called to her and six years ago she found Westmoreland County, drawn to its “pastoral, bucolic beauty” that includes “rolling land, well-kept farms and plenty of forests,” the prefect settings for her artistic gift. What draws her to places like Weldon’s Drive to sketch then paint the scene? “The character of the place, expressive trees, interesting buildings, the contour of the land,” she replied.
Come meet Bergdoll and her one-of-a kind (she doesn’t make prints) art. It will be on display until January 11.