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LORSER FEITELSON

(1898-1978)

PIONEER OF POST-SURREALISM & HARD EDGE ABSTRACTION

By Alisha Patrick

Recognized as the co-creator of Post-Surrealism, Lorser Feitelson lead the way to an established art scene on the West Coast that challenged the authority of both New York and Paris. His work emphasized the connection between cerebral intellect and aesthetic pattern, allowing the mind to ponder the juxtapositions presented instead of the dreamscapes and visual impossibilities created in European Surrealism. Feitelson hosted the NBC television series “Feitelson on Art” from 1956 to 1963.




Table of Contents

I. BIOGRAPHY

Lorser Feitelson was born in Savannah, Georgia in 1898. His family relocated to New York soon after his birth and would remain there throughout his youth. The inclination to become an artist struck Feitelson early in his life. By the age of six, his father began to teach Feitelson to draw from an analytical perspective using his collection of art books and periodicals. In 1912, Feitelson attended drawing classes with George B. Bridgman (1865-1943). Upon viewing The Armory Show of 1913, he began to paint seriously and would later reflect that this show was the tipping point that influenced him to make painting his life’s work.

In 1917, Feitelson opened a studio at 10 East 15th Street in New York while educating himself by visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art. By the age of twenty-seven, Feitelson held his first one-person show at the Daniel Gallery in New York and received critical acclaim. He ventured to Paris in 1919 and would frequent the epicenter of Western art throughout the 1920s. He took note of Mannerism, Neo-Classicism, and the decline of Cubism. These observations would help set the pace for his career upon his return to the states and subsequent move to the West coast.

Feitelson relocated to Southern California in 1927 and would pioneer a new direction for modern art in the region. New York, like Paris, had consisted of a strongly active and centralized artistic community. However, Southern California tended toward a more disperse environment and upon his arrival in Los Angeles, Feitelson stated that “there wasn’t any art appreciation therefore the artist had to paint for only one person, himself” (Smith 601-602). This independent spirit would allow Feitelson to expand the artistic avenues available and eventually create an organized response and alternative to the European Surrealists.

In order to financially support himself, Feitelson taught at Chouinard Art Institute, the Art Center School of Design and the Stickney Memorial School of Art where, in 1930, he met student Helen Lundeberg. The two bonded over similar aesthetic tastes formulated the Post-Surrealist movement, or “Subjective Classicism” in 1934, which is described in greater detail below.

In 1933, Feitelson directed and designed the first gallery of contemporary art in Los Angeles, creating an exhibition space within the Centaur Book Shop, later known as the Centaur Gallery. The success of this location would prompt him to open the Hollywood Gallery of Modern Art within the following year and four other galleries throughout his career. These galleries allowed him to show his own work and provide representation to other Southern California artists and support the growing appreciation of modern art.

Feitelson was appointed supervisor of Murals, Paintings, and Sculpture for the Southern California division of the Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project in 1937 and continued in this position until 1943. He became co-director of the Los Angeles Art Association in 1939 and for thirty years, organized exhibitions for the group.

By the 1940’s Feitelson’s art moved into full geometric abstraction and would continue into Minimalist tendencies throughout the 1950’s. Between 1956 and 1963, Feitelson hosted “Feitelson on Art,” a Sunday morning NBC television series. While on camera, Feitelson would demonstrate his classical drawing abilities for his viewers and explain his viewpoints on the current artistic scene. The weekly series was only one facet of his fifty year teaching history. In 1969, he was awarded an honorary degree, Doctor of Fine Arts from the Art Center College of Design.

Feitelson continued to produce art until his health conditions began deteriorating. On May 24, 1978, Feitelson passed away due to heart failure brought on by recent illness at the age of 80.

II. AN ANALYSIS OF THE ARTIST'S WORK

�A culture cannot exist without deep adhesion to a formal order, and the avant garde, the more it adventures the more it must create its own order. The great artist doesn�t destroy order � he makes it over.� - Lorser Feitelson (Lorser Feitelson Drawings � On Classic Themes and Others)

Feitelson established himself as a truly independent artist from an early age. While studying art during his childhood, Feitelson gained a lifelong appreciation for the Renaissance Masters. He studied their draftsmanship techniques, composition, and made thousands of figural studies, which would become the foundation of his life�s work. In 1913, Feitelson viewed The Armory Show and quickly became fascinated by the use of kinetic motion within the works displayed. The complex relationship between the Old Masters and the progression of Modern art that he was exposed to in his youth would play out within Feitelson�s career.

When he relocated to Southern California in 1927, Feitelson described the region by stating that �no one ever heard of Modern Art. If you even talked about Van Gogh you were a radical of the worst kind, a dangerous guy. So I felt very much alone� (Artforum 21). Feitelson�s artistic sensibilities thrived on the absence of a structured art environment. His work began to push the boundaries of how internal states could be communicated.

In 1934, Feitelson and Lundeburg coined the term �Subjective Classicism� also known as the Post-Surrealist movement. Their manifesto was made in direct contrast with the dreamscapes of European Surrealists. Feitelson used a classical figural and structural context to express a universal theme to his audience, such as life and death. He desired to send a conscious message that would be accessible to the viewer, which differentiated Feitelson from his European counterparts because Post-Surrealism supported the conscious use of materials rather than the unconscious. Rationality, particularly the fascination with biology, psychology, and their connection to philosophy became the springboard for the Post-Surrealist movement.

Feitelson categorized Post-Surrealism by its �theatrical intensity, the insistence on strange encounters between objects, the clarity with which chosen fragments of reality are represented, and the depiction of deep space� (Anderson 183). Thus, unlike Surrealism, Feitelson�s work presented images that did not distort reality, but instead created a mystical quality through the juxtaposition of objects in visually possible space.

In the 1940s, Feitelson�s art would undergo a notable change. He realized that �certain kinds of events unexpectedly take one beyond the usual way of experiencing things� and began to depict abstract forms that were no longer rooted in concrete objects (Anderson 202). Feitelson called these works �Magical Space Forms� and their ominous forms most likely reflected the psychological duress surrounding the World War II era.

His work would continue to express his interest in structural dynamic by experimenting with the relationship between color and form, creating motion between positive and negative spaces. Symbolic imagery was abandoned, but the relationship to figural form remained within the curvilinear forms throughout his work. This pronounced change would grow into Feitelson�s �hard-edge� abstraction, coined by art critic Jules Langsner, which further emphasized geometry.

The last shift in Feitelson�s style would move him into minimalist compositions. Solid backgrounds of a single color would typically have single, solitary lines sliding through the color plane. Art Historian Diane Degasis Moran insists that �nowhere else in the history of painting has a single line been invested with such vitality� (Moran 8). Feitelson was able to create this flowing, rhythmical movement by curving these lines through flat fields of color.

Feitelson described his later work, stating: �Space, with its expressive possibilities of monumental magnificence and mystery, and linear rhythm, with its limitless potentialities for harmonic and emotional experience, are the two principal elements in my hard-edge paintings� (Art Inc.). Thus, throughout Feitelson�s career, there is a clear progression, not only toward increasing abstraction, but also in the ability of abstracted forms to communicate an inner state of being or emotional form lying on the outskirts of visual reality.

III. CHRONOLOGY

  • 1898 Born February 11 in Savannah, Georgia
  • 1910 Begins painting in oils
  • 1919 Takes first trip to Paris, studying at the Academie Colorossi
  • 1920 Contributes to a wall hanging created by some of the Eight at the request of John Sloan.
  • 1925 First one-person exhibition at the Daniel Gallery
  • 1927 Moves to Los Angeles
  • 1928 First one-person museum exhibition at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor
  • 1929 Becomes instructor of modern painting at the Chouinard Art Institute
  • 1930 The Los Angeles Times publishes Feitelson�s article �Eclecticism�What Is It?� on January 26th.
  • 1932 Teaches a painting and composition class with The Art Students League
  • 1933 Opens the Centaur Gallery in Los Angeles, CA
  • 1936 Begins painting the Los Angeles County Hall of Records mural
  • 1937 Appointed Supervisor of Murals, Paintings and Sculpture for the New Deal�s Federal Art Project until 1943
  • 1944 Begins teaching at The Art Center School of Design
  • 1947 Becomes director of the Gallery of Mid-20th Century Art in Los Angeles
  • 1956 Begins television series �Feitelson on Art� for NBC
  • 1963 Begins first paintings of pure lines
  • 1969 Awarded honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts from the Art Center College of Design
  • 1973 Honored by the Otis Art Institute, Los Angeles as a Distinguished American Artist
  • 1978 Dies of heart failure on May 24
  • IV. COLLECTIONS

  • Public Collections:
  • Atlantic Richfield Company, Los Angeles, CA
  • Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York, NY
  • Frederick R. Weisman Foundation, Los Angeles, CA
  • Honolulu Academy of Arts, HI
  • Industrial Electronic Engineers, Los Angeles, CA
  • James B. Lansing Sound Inc., Los Angeles, CA
  • Joseph H. Hirshhorn Collection, Washington D.C.
  • Library of Congress, Washington D.C.
  • Long Beach Museum of Art, CA
  • Lorser Feitelson and Helen Lundeberg Feitelson Arts Foundation, Los Angeles, CA
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA
  • Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX
  • Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, St. Louis, MO
  • Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, CA
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
  • Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
  • National Bank of Omaha, NE
  • National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
  • Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art, Utah State University, Logan, UT
  • Oakland Museum, CA
  • Palm Springs Desert Museum, CA
  • Phoenix Art Museum, AZ
  • Richard and Roselyne Swig Collection, San Francisco, CA
  • San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA
  • Santa Barbara Museum of Art, CA
  • Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, Lincoln, NE
  • Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C.
  • University of Arizona Museum of Art, Tucson, AZ
  • University of Virginia Art Museum, VA
  • Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
  • Xerox Corporation, New York, NY
  • Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University, NJ
  • Private Collections:
  • Herta and Paul Amir, Beverly Hills, CA
  • Francie F. Brody, Los Angeles, CA
  • The Buck Collection, Laguna Hills, CA
  • Mr. And Mrs. Harry Carmean, Santa Barbara, CA
  • Dr. and Mrs. J. Thomas Chess, South Pasadena, CA
  • Gloria Ellwood, Los Angeles, CA
  • Betty Freeman, Beverly Hills, CA
  • Murray Gribim, Beverly Hills, CA
  • Mr. And Mrs. Victor Haboush, Brentwood, CA
  • June Harwood, Studio City, CA
  • Allan Marion, Beverly Hills, CA
  • Mr. And Mrs. Alan C. Moss, Los Angeles, CA
  • Mr. And Mrs. James Ries, Beverly Hills, CA
  • Mark Seldis, Los Angeles, CA
  • Mr. And Mrs. Russell Dymock Smith, Palos Verdes Estate, CA
  • Gary Snyder, New York, NY
  • Roselyne Swig, San Francisco, CA
  • V. EXHIBITIONS

  • One-Person Exhibitions:
  • 1925 The Daniel Gallery, New York City, NY
  • 1926 Neumann Galleries, New York City, NY
  • 1926 Salon d’automne, Paris
  • 1926 Dudensing Galleries, New York City, NY
  • 1928 California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, CA
  • 1928 Los Angeles Museum, CA
  • 1928 Wilshire Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1931 Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego, CA
  • 1932 California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, CA
  • 1932 Ilsley Galleries, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1933 Ebell Salon, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1933 Laguna Beach Art Association, CA
  • 1935 Stanley Rose Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1944 Los Angeles County Museum, CA
  • 1944 San Francisco Museum of Art, CA
  • 1947 Hartwell Galleries, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1949 The Art Center School Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1952 The Pasadena Art Institute, CA
  • 1955 Marion Koogler McNay Art Institute, San Antonio, TX
  • 1958 Scripps College Art Galleries, Claremont, CA
  • 1959 Paul Rivas Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1960 Paul Rivas Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1961 Paul Rivas Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1962 Ankrum Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1962 Long Beach Museum of Art, CA
  • 1963 Chapman College Purcell Art Association, Orange, CA
  • 1964 Ankrum Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1967 Occidental College, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1968 Los Angeles Art Association Galleries
  • 1968 Ankrum Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1972 Municipal Art Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1977 David Stuart Galleries, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1978 Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City, NY
  • Group Exhibitions:
  • 1924 The Daniel Gallery, New York City, NY
  • 1927 Whitney Studio Club, New York City, NY
  • 1928 Los Angeles Museum, CA
  • 1929 Los Angeles Museum, CA
  • 1930 Los Angeles Museum, CA
  • 1932 Los Angeles Museum, CA
  • 1933 California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, CA
  • 1934 Los Angeles Museum, CA
  • 1934 Foundation of Western Art, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1934 Centaur Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1935 San Francisco Museum of Art, CA
  • 1935 The Brooklyn Museum, New York City, NY
  • 1935Stanley Rose Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1935 Hollywood Gallery of Modern Art, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1936 The Museum of Modern Art, New York City, NY
  • 1937 Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City, NY
  • 1938 Stendahl Galleries, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1939 Los Angeles Museum, CA
  • 1940 San Francisco Museum of Art, CA
  • 1940 Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City, NY
  • 1944 The Art Institute of Chicago, IL
  • 1945 Los Angeles County Museum, CA
  • 1946 National Academy of Design, New York City, NY
  • 1947 The Art Institute of Chicago, IL
  • 1949 Los Angeles County Museum, CA
  • 1949 Chaffey Community Art Association, Ontario, CA
  • 1951 Los Angeles County Museum, CA
  • 1951 Los Angeles Art Association Galleries, CA
  • 1951 College of fine and Applied Arts, Urbana, IL
  • 1952 The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, NY
  • 1953 Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, CO
  • 1954 Los Angeles Art Association Galleries, CA
  • 1955 Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City, NY
  • 1956 The Municipal Art Center, Long Beach, CA
  • 1958 Esther Robles Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1958 University of Nebraska Art Galleries, Lincoln, NE
  • 1959 Los Angeles County Museum, CA
  • 1959 Pasadena Art Museum, CA
  • 1960 San Francisco Museum of Art, CA
  • 1961 The Brooklyn Museum, New York City, NY
  • 1961 Auckland City Art Gallery, New Zealand
  • 1962 The Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, Fort Worth, TX
  • 1962 Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City, NY
  • 1963 Long Beach Museum of Art, CA
  • 1964 Pavilion Gallery, Balboa, CA
  • 1964 Occidental College, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1964 Phoenix Art Museum, AZ
  • 1964 Esther Robles Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1965 San Francisco Museum of Art, CA
  • 1965 The Museum of Modern Art, New York City, NY
  • 1965 Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City, NY
  • 1965 Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois IL
  • 1966 Lytton Center of the Visual Arts, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1966 La Jolla Museum of Art, CA
  • 1966 E. B. Crocker Art Gallery, Sacramento, CA
  • 1967 Lytton Center of the Visual Arts, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1967 Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City, NY
  • 1967 E. B. Crocker Art Gallery, Sacramento, CA
  • 1968 E. B. Crocker Art Gallery, Sacramento, CA
  • 1968 David Stuart Galleries, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1969 Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, FL
  • 1969 Long Beach Museum of Art, CA
  • 1969 Pasadena Art Museum, CA
  • 1969 David Stuart Galleries, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1970 American Embassy, Moscow, Russia
  • 1970 Virginia Museum, Richmond, VA
  • 1970 E. B. Crocker Art Gallery, Sacramento, CA
  • 1970 Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, NE
  • 1970 David Stuart Galleries, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1972 Montgomery Art Center, Claremont, CA
  • 1974 Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art, CA
  • 1975 Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, DE
  • 1976 Occidental College Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1976 University of Santa Clara, CA
  • 1976 San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA
  • 1976 Los Angeles Art Association Galleries, CA
  • 1977 Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA
  • 1977 Rutgers University Art Gallery, New Brunswick, NJ
  • 1978 California State University, Long Beach, CA
  • VI. MEMBERSHIPS

  • Los Angeles Art Association
  • Salons of America
  • Society of Independent Artists
  • Woodstock Art Association
  • Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project
  • VII. Bibliography

    1. 1. Anderson, Susan M. “Journey Into the Sun: California Artists and Surrealism.” On the Edge of America: California Modernist Art, 1900-1950. Berkeley: University of California Press: 1996.
    2. 2. Art Inc.: American Paintings From Corporate Collections. Montgomery, Alabama. Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts: 1979.
    3. 3. “Feitelson, Gerchik, Schifrin.” Artforum. Vol 1, No 2. July 1962. pg 21.
    4. 4. Longstreet, Stephen. Lorser Feitelson Drawings – On Classic Themes and Others. Los Angeles Art Association: 1979.
    5. 5. Moran, Diane Degasis. “Lorser Feitelson.” Lorser Feitelson and Helen Lundeberg: A Retrospective Exhibition. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art: 1980.
    6. 6. Smith, Richard. “Modern Art and Oral History in the United States: A Revolution Remembered.” Journal of American History. Vol 78, No 2, pg 601-602.

    VIII. WORKS FOR SALE BY THIS ARTIST


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