My Painting Hanging in the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art

Philip Koch, Cape Cod Morning, oil on canvas 33 1/2 x 50"

Katherine Kunau, the new Associate Curator at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art (CMRA) in Iowa contacted me last week to tell me her Museum has my painting Cape Cod Morning from their Permanent Collection hanging currently in their The Nation Travels-themed gallery. That sort of thing is sweet to hear. I had the good fortune to be invited to have my very first solo art museum exhibition at CRMA back in 1994, and this painting traveled to Iowa to be part of that. (CMRA by the way has amazing collections of Grant Wood and Marvin Cone paintings very worth seeing).

There's a funny story behind my painting. For many years I have been traveling to the outer tip of Cape Cod, MA. It was here where for three decades Edward Hopper lived half of each year and painted many of his most memorable works. Hopper was the chief influence on me as a young artist to change from abstraction to becoming a realist. I love the landscape of Cape Cod in its own right, but knowing it was also Hopper's favored terrain puts a special aura around it. The Hopper oil below, one of my personal favorites, inspired my choice of the title for my painting.

Edward Hopper, Cape Cod Morning, oil on canvas
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.

Not far from Hopper's studio in Truro there's a building he would have frequently driven past on the Cape's main road, Route 6. For several years I had been admiring the dazzling patterns the morning light would cast on its walls. It would make a great painting I knew but the commotion from the heavy traffic had put me off from the task. I'd tried setting up my easel on the road's shoulder but it offered a viewpoint too low that cut off the bottom of the building.

Finally one summer I broke down and marched out to the narrow concrete median between the four lanes of traffic. Only 3 feet wide, it barely accommodated the spindly legs of my French easel. Trying to paint there was unsettling to put it mildly, but the view of the building was perfect. So for the next week I'd spend 2 precarious hours each morning working on my painting. Despite the cavalcade of noise from the traffic, it turned out really well. Returning to my Baltimore studio I went on to make the large version from it that's now in the Museum.

My practice is to make smaller oils out on location rather than to paint the landscape from photographs I have taken. It's far more time consuming, but I find I need the extra hours to discover what it is about a source I can use to make a painting that is beyond the ordinary. If you study something long enough, it will reveal itself to you in unexpected and often delightful ways.

Philip Koch, Cape Cod Morning on display in the Cedar Rapids
Museum of Art's The Nation Travels gallery. photo courtesy 
of the Museum

Painters who set themselves up to work in the middle of four lanes of heavy traffic also are setting themselves up for all sorts of responses from motorists startled to encounter an artist in the middle of their road. I was no exception. My favorite was the words hurled to me through one car's open window "It needs more 

Philip Koch, Cape Cod Morning on display in the Cedar Rapids
Museum of Art's The Nation Travels gallery. photo courtesy 
of the Museum


  1. omg it needs more green...... love it. You know Phil I do the same thing now and have for years relied on my "field studies" especially for color. I will on occassion refer to photos for a few details but the true color is only found from experience. Even if the color is not the "retinal image" it is the color you feel and of course see. You were and are a continued inspiration.

  2. Thanks mean12350. I like what you say about "the color you feel." Couldn't agree more.

  3. Philip, I live in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and discovered your piece 'Cape Cod Morning' last summer. An absolutely wonderful painting. Katherine had just opened the 2015 exhibit 'Midwest Summer—Light and Warmth', and your painting has a prominent placement in the main gallery. I loved the backstory of the work—I cannot imagine having the fortitude to paint in the median of a busy highway! Thank you for sharing and Godspeed!

  4. Thanks so much Paul. Best wishes, Philip


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