Dan Neidhardt was just shy of turning 70 when he took up cycling. It was part of his new exercise regimen, and small jaunts around his Brookland neighborhood in Northeast Washington soon turned into 20-mile rides out of the District.
Neidhardt was riding his $5,000 carbon road bicycle April 28 when he collided with a pickup truck at First Street and Florida Avenue NW, D.C. police said. The landscape painter died May 10 at a hospital. He was 74.
The crash is under investigation, but police said in a statement that they believe Neidhardt pedaled through a red light as he rode north on First Street.
Neidhardt’s death has been hard on a small artist community that has taken hold in Brookland, a Northeast Washington neighborhood roughly bordered by Rhode Island, South Dakota and Michigan avenues, with longtime residents mixing with newcomers, coffee shops, galleries and diverse eateries.
Before moving to Washington, Neidhardt spent summers with artists who flocked to Provincetown, Mass., at the tip of Cape Cod, and attended the prestigious Cape School of Art, where he studied landscapes and the use of color and natural light under master impressionist Henry Hensche.
Hilda Neily, a teacher at the school, said Neidhardt “painted all the time.” One challenge was to paint the image of a brick and capture the different hues from weathering and age. “He painted a mean brick,” Neily said. “You’d think bricks are easy, but they’re not, and Dan painted a mean one.”
Neidhardt grew up in Louisiana and worked for a time on freighters in Mississippi. He married a woman he met in art school on Cape Cod, and they had a son who died. Family members could not be reached.
Neidhardt moved to Brookland 15 years ago after he met Lavinia Wohlfarth in Provincetown. Wohlfarth owns a curator shop and an art gallery in the neighborhood. She said Neidhardt fell for the suburban feel of the District enclave, which allowed him to conduct his affairs without venturing downtown or taking the Metro.
Wohlfarth said Neidhardt didn’t paint from photographs. He stood outside, in real time, the test being to incorporate the natural light into his work. Wohlfarth said Neidhardt used “one color at a time to create the atmosphere of the day.”
Even when he painted scenes just outside of his home, Neidhardt eschewed the traditional cityscape of gritty rowhouses and storefronts, instead painting bright scenes of grass, trees and shrubbery.
Wohlfarth said Neidhardt worked to stay healthy. In his later years, he walked or rode around Brookland, lingering at coffeehouses or in parks, where he drew or played chess. He frequented the Bike Rack on Monroe Street NE, awaiting repairs while sipping coffee in an adjacent courtyard.
Wohlfarth said she was worried when Neidhardt took up cycling to keep fit: “It’s just that traffic here is so bad for bicycles.”