Scenic Bridges

17 March 2021

Scenic Bridges: A Collection of Bridge Motifs by Fritz Stehwien
Published by Landscape Art Publishing
Review by Michelle Shaw
$29.95 ISBN 9780991964987

Scenic Bridges, the latest release from the Fritz Stehwien Estate, is a delightful visual study of bridges around the world, in particular Saskatoon, and also reveals a gifted artist’s creative development and perspective through the years.

Saskatoon is well-known as the City of Bridges (eight to date) and this beautiful hardcover book features a number of them. But it also goes beyond the city, featuring bridges near Borden and The Battlefords as well as bridges further afield including the Calgary Centre Street Bridge, and the Blue Water Bridge in Sarnia, Ontario.

Bridges are obviously something that continually fascinated Stehwien and he was known to sketch and paint wherever he went. Many of the bridges in the book are from his travels around the world, including Taiwan, Austria, Germany, France and Holland and span the years from the early 1940s to the 1980s.

One of the things that struck me about this book is that Stehwien has captured specific brief moments in time that would otherwise have been forgotten. A number of his artworks, for example, show bridges in Europe during World War 2 that he recorded when he was a conscripted soldier, and other works show bridges just after the war that were being rebuilt.

The book also showcases Stehwien’s development as an artist. He was born and educated in Germany and was traditionally trained in fresco and mural painting. He ultimately worked in a variety of mediums including pastel, watercolor, charcoal; pencil, pen and ink, oil and even woodcuts. In the 1950s he painted as part of the ‘Hallesche Schule’, a post war modern style of painting, influenced by the expressionistic movement. However, after increasing political oppression, he and his family escaped to the West travelling to the Netherlands, Croatia and finally Canada before settling in Saskatoon in the 1970s. Here he taught art classes, took commissions for portraits and had a number of exhibitions of large landscapes in oil and water color. His wife, Waltraude, a fellow artist, taught university classes in puppetry in Saskatoon and Emma Lake.

There is a helpful biography at the back of the book that allows the reader to put his work in context. Most of the artwork in the book is accompanied by a brief description, and, when known, a brief history of how and when a specific bridge came to be built.

Stehwien’s works continue to be shared through the Stehwien family and the Fritz Stehwien Estate. Other books featuring his artwork include Fritz Stehwien: A Retrospective and Absolute Prairie.


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