Just over a year ago, Eastern Trustee Rich Merriman stopped local artist George Rothacker at lunch to offer him a job.
“You can paint 50 paintings of Eastern University by next year, can’t you?” Rothacker recollects Merriman saying.
Because Rothacker owns and operates a graphic art and advertising firm, and paintings typically require him two weeks to a month to complete, the bargain number was brought down to 15 paintings.
At Homecoming, Rothacker placed his completed works on display in Warner Library for the Eastern community to view.
Rothacker themed his collection “The Seasons of Eastern University,” painting mainly buildings and landscapes in different seasons of the year.
Fifty percent of sales from the paintings benefit The Friends of the Library, an organization that helps raise extra funding for Warner Library. Originally, a number of the paintings were bought by Eastern board members, then donated back to the university. President Black was also given one of the paintings as a gift at his 10th anniversary celebration.
Rothacker also displayed non-Eastern paintings at Homecoming, including six from a series of paintings covering scenes from inner city Philadelphia to the Main Line.
“I am happier than can be with the response from people,” Rothacker said after taking in people’s reactions to his work at Homecoming.
Rothacker, who lives only two miles from Eastern’s campus, did much of his work in the studio, although a few paintings were done on site. The proximity to campus helped to make the work easier, although Rothacker admitted to not having much familiarity with the campus before this project.
When all was completed, the result was a masterwork of art, scenes that any member of the community could recollect seeing at some point in their pictured memory of Eastern’s campus.
“The story is about the setting,” Rothacker said. “You put yourself in the setting.”
Rothacker originally graduated from Temple University with a degree in engineering and without much vision for working as an artist in the future. He is completely self-taught, never receiving a formal education or training in art.
In the late 1960s Rothacker began his career as an artist, painting sporadically here and there. In the 1990s he became interested in doing artwork to help the community, doing series on sites such as the Anthony Wayne Theatre and Radnor Memorial Library in order to raise funds for their sustainment.
With time, Rothacker has become a renowned artist locally. His paintings of Eastern were the first university series he has ever done.
“After the year I found that I learned a lot about the campus,” Rothacker said. “I also got to know a lot of people. I got to appreciate the campus and the people.”
Rothacker’s series will be on display in Warner Library through October. Individual prints are available for purchase on most of the paintings, and books of prints are also on sale inside the library. One painting of Fowler Hall is still available for purchase.
For a quick view of “The Seasons of Eastern University,” visit georgerothacker.com.