in her shared studio in Berlin

Lila Rose Kole is a poetic painter whose early success is at once abrupt and inspiringly sudden.

There is ever an inclination to describe a young artist as “emerging”, but with Lila the reference would be a bit late; Lila has always moved through life in a lyrical fashion, instinctively “emerging” through novel thresholds. She embodies the concept of poiesis, that rare way of transforming and continuing the world. Through her painting, photography, verse, or scholarship, she is compelled to express uniquely textured landscapes, both literally and spiritually. It seems she was born with a capacity to inhabit and be inhabited by a “sense of place”. This innate visceral sensitivity and visual acuity fosters an artist of ceaseless inquiry and curiosity; she is a productive artist driven to subtle nuance in varied mediums.


One sees at once a taste for coloration and luminosity in her works; a unique and often surprising convergence of shading and contrast; bold and muted. This intrepid aspect of her creative spirit expresses itself in everything from her dress, to her decisive movements on canvas, with a camera, and through spoken and written word. Lila’s inventive, often fearless journey into the creative process, unfurls her as a singular artist.

Lila Rose Kole, Painter

Lila is a professional full time artist, producing paintings in the the style of the New American Tonalists; she divides her hours among the demands of creating numerous commissioned artwork for corporate and private collections, of directing Hartshorn Studios in Tremont (Cleveland, Ohio), of co-owning “The Vault” at 78th Street Studios (Cleveland, Ohio) and of teaching others to find their own painting voices.

Lila studied painting and literature at Marlboro College in Southern Vermont.  She moved to Cleveland to continue her apprenticeship with Rob Hartshorn two years ago, having spent the whole of her life in New England. Once inspired by the sea and the mountains, Lila recently is also intrigued by the abstract landscapes of Cleveland’s industrial heritage.

New American Tonalism: revisiting the intimate landscape

First recognized in the late 19th century, Tonalists were post-impressionist American artists who produced evocative and intimate paintings, landscapes of mystical ambiguity that transcended visual realms of being. They were representational lightscapes which were not so much seen as imagined.

The New American Tonalists embody the Romantic’s Search into a realm of imagination and emotion; a search that “stuns the soul” (Diderot) at times in terror or delight or melancholy. A search for Beauty; whether that lies in the purity of wilderness or the wildness of rust.  Like the early tonalists, they express the poetry of nature as phenomenon, emoting an essence rather than rendering a likeness; but the new mode of tonalist expression emphasizes abstraction.  A New Tonalist Painting is an emotive ode with both a soft melancholy cadence, and a dark murky tongue …. at once consistent and contrasting. A New Tonalist painting is a threshold of sensation, a truth, a whimsy, an abstract whisper.

Lila Rose Kole finds inspiration in early post impressionist works, and brings to Tonalism a contemporary interpretation.  Atmospheric gauze plays across her canvases. Multiple layers of luminous pigments catch in the fissures of impasto crafted foundations. Kole describes her process: “I interpret the spirituality of the natural world by introducing dream realms achieved through careful configurations of colors, arranged in thin transparent layers delicately overlapping one another. Like panes of glass, the layers reflect and refract a myriad of visual signals to the viewer.” George Inness, an early Tonalist, could have been describing Kole’s work when he looked for an ‘awakening of emotion’: find here, in the uncertainty of an organic shape or milky softness of a veiled sun a sense of place rather than a nameable location.