Drawn to steel industry, he creates powerful legacy

National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum delighted to display late artist’s work

By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times

The work of the late, German-born artist, Klaus

The work of the late, German-born artist, Klaus Guido Grutzka, which offers insight into a bygone era, will be displayed at the National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum in Coatesville.

When the family of the late iconic, German-born artist, Klaus Guido Grutzka, contacted The Graystone Society’s National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum, Executive Director James D. Ziegler was intrigued.

Ziegler said the family knew Grutzka, known for being a master of machine imagery, had painted mills and furnaces of Lukens Steel. Was the Coatesville museum interested in acquiring all or some of his work?

A trip to Grutzka’s Lancaster County studio with Scott G. Huston, Graystone’s president, and Eugene Di Orio, Graystone’s past vice president, sealed the deal, Ziegler said. “We immediately saw the collection’s significance to the iron and steel story that we exhibit here at The National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum (NISHM) and wish to preserve it,” he added.

More than 1,000 works of art will be available for the public to view during regular museum hours in an authentic space painstakingly created by dismantling Grutzka’s studio.

“If you have ever been to the Smithsonian Institution and seen Julia Child’s kitchen, it’s the same principal exhibited here,” said Ziegler. We have all of his studio furniture, as well as his art supplies.”

Part of the immense collection will be on display at the Coatesville Country Club on March 21, one week shy of the second anniversary of the artist’s passing, for the seventh annual Rebecca Lukens Award ceremony. This year’s recipient is Regina Horton Lewis, a well-known Coatesville community advocate. Tickets are $50, and reservations are required. For more information, contact The Graystone Society at 610-384-9282 or graystone@lukensnhd.org.

According to biographical information on Grutzka, he was always fascinated with heavy machinery and came to love images of coal mining and the steel industry. After immigrating to the U.S. in 1963, he worked for many giants of the industry, and even created the famous logo for Union Brewery, which features a distinctive “U” on every bottle. He also contributed hundreds of magazine covers to “33”, a steel-industry publication. For his largest client, Bethlehem Steel, he was commissioned to create paintings of its steel mills.

In his later years, Grutzka became an assistant professor in the Arts Department at the renowned Hill School in Pottstown. He remained there for eight years and spent his last 20 years working in his Lancaster County studio. He died on March 28, 2011, at the age of 88.

When Bethlehem Steel closed, Grutzka’s images offered a historic resource. Ziegler said in addition to exhibiting the studio at NISHM, the museum would add paintings into the collections that are relevant to NISHM’s educational mission. “We are very excited about it,” Zeigler said.

The Graystone Society, which was created in 1984 to help preserve the city’s historic architecture, also assists with municipal improvement and economic development through preservation. The Graystone Society is named for the Graystone Mansion, part of The Lukens National Historic District, which is the home of The National Iron and Steel Heritage Museum. A focal point of the museum is the 500 tons of World Trade Center steel “trees” originally manufactured at Lukens Steel in the late 1960s.

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