Painting as an art form came to the Northwest Territory along with the first settlers. The earliest activity was that of the roaming and itinerant artists who were called upon to paint signs, furniture, portraits, as well as provide a lesson or two. Traveling through Ohio's countryside and her burgeoning cities and towns, these artists sought commissions from patrons and taught aspiring young artists.
This tradition of the experienced artist taking the role of teacher and educator is a prominent one in Ohio. For example, both Sala Bosworth and Charles Sullivan, artists from the Marietta area, gave lessons to Lily Martin Spencer, another local artist. It was part of this long-standing and ongoing effort to educate that allowed for art schools and clubs to open in the larger cities in the mid-nineteeth century.
Cincinnati, "The Jewel of the West," was one city which produced a thriving arts community and was considered the arts center of the Midwest for many years until Chicago took center stage. As a result of the intense interest in the arts in general, concerned citizen groups and community leaders helped to found museums throughout the late 1800s and into the early 1900s.
Soon after, museum art schools as well as college art programs formalized art education and training in the state permanently moving it away from the clubs and small, local schools so popular in the past. Today, the arts continue to be vital part of the fabric of the state of Ohio. The Ohio Historical Society recognizes the contributions of artists in documenting the history of art in Ohio as well as the history of Ohio itself. The history of painting is only a small portion of that long history.