Mr. Pitcher was a member of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh. His work was juried into every Annual Exhibition from 1971 through 1998, frequently capturing awards. His watercolor "Enlightenment" was selected by juror Doryun Chong, a curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, for inclusion in the AAP's 99th Annual Exhibition, at the Carnegie Museum of Art. It is on display through Nov. 8.
Mr. Pitcher was honored as the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts Artist of the Year in 1987, and was designated a Master Visual Artist of Pittsburgh in 1998.
His authentically represented trees, combined with a highly developed aesthetic, were recognized by the nationally prominent Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation on the Carnegie Mellon University campus and his work captured other honors.
"Charlie's work took him outdoors to gather information about trees, limb structure, the color and texture of bark, and the interesting abstract elements that nature creates," said his wife, Susan. "He often brought back limbs and pieces of bark to study and refer to as he created his masterpieces in the studio."
Mrs. Pitcher said she and her husband "drove, walked, photographed and sketched nature in and around southwestern Pennsylvania."
"Mingo Park, Ligonier and the Uniontown mountains were his favorite haunts. Over the years he got to know many of the trees personally. We watched them grow and many times die," she said.
Sam Berkowitz, owner of Concept Art Gallery in Regent Square, which has represented Mr. Pitcher since the early 1990s, said that "What really impressed me about Charlie was that he just kept upping his game. [As his style developed], he kept pushing it and pushing it, building more depth into each painting. One reason people were attracted to his paintings was that they could relate to a Western Pennsylvania landscape. But in reality they were very abstract. They were spatial exercises. He was very conscientiously trying to build this illusion of deep space."
"Superficially it was like superrealist work. In reality, it was illusory. There is a great ambiguity. I think it is a strength of the work," Mr. Berkowitz said.
Mr. Pitcher was fastidious about detail, and Mr. Berkowitz said the artist would at times use a brush with only a single hair to achieve fine lines, such as at the ends of branches. "To his credit, he developed a singular style."
Born in Cumberland, Md., Mr. Pitcher graduated from Mt. Lebanon High School in 1945. He graduated from Westminister College in Lawrence County and completed a special studies degree from Pratt Institute, New York, in 1950. In 1957, he earned a degree in education from Edinboro University.
Mr. Pitcher taught art in the Pittsburgh city schools from 1957 to 1965, was Buhl Planetarium director of education from 1965 to 1971 and operated the Charles Pitcher Gallery in Shadyside from 1970-73.
But it was in his artwork that he found his passion.
"Charlie was devoted to his art, which was his life," Mrs. Pitcher said.
Donald Miller, retired Post-Gazette art critic, said that Mr. Pitcher "found his own path in a time of heavy concentration on abstraction."
"When you looked at his work, you never doubted the authenticity of what he put down," Mr. Miller said.