II. AN ANALYSIS OF THE ARTIST'S WORK
Joseph Weisman began his formal artistic career during his studies at the Chouinard Art Institute from 1925 to 1929. The California Scene genre in which he worked developed out of this institution. It focused on cityscapes of California emphasizing social realism and urban life. Weisman was stylistically influenced by this movement and his teachers at Chouinard, Millard Sheets, an influential and well-known California Scene painter.
Miller Sheets was one of Weisman’s teachers of watercolor at the Chouinard Institute. A watercolorist native to California, Sheets was influential as an artist and teacher, in bringing about the development of the Regionalist traditions, which was the main stylistic tradition in which Weisman worked throughout his career. The work of both artists focused primarily on the California urban landscape and its development through the 1920s and 30s. Weisman’s interest in social realism started while working with Sheets at Chouinard.
Weisman’s early style, influenced by his time at the Chouinard Institute, is apparent in early works such as First House on Olvera Street (1929). His color palette and use of white spaces reflect the atmosphere and light quality of Southern California. Through his depictions of landmark buildings and scenes in developing California, Weisman was successful in documenting a transitional point in California’s history. His first exhibition was at the Los Angeles County Fair in 1929 near the end of his studies at Chouinard. His work at this time centered on a light palette, and scenes early stages of development.
Weisman was one of a group of innovative painters working with watercolors in the early twentieth century in California who painted in what came to be known as “The California Style”. This group focused on city and suburb scenes with an emphasis on the everyday life in Californian communities, and was a part of the larger, American Regionalist movement of the mid-twentieth century.
Weisman’s later work, such as Purple Duck Café (1939) exudes the bold design characteristic of this group of artists. Still working within the style of the California scene painters, Weisman’s painting is executed in a darker palette than his earlier works with a bolder expression of space. This painting highlights the transparency of the watercolor medium that was preferred by the California scene painters. Weisman usually executed his paintings without prior sketches, and often completed them en plein air.
Weisman’s interest in images of everyday California often focused on specific groups. At one point he became interested in the old Chinatown district of Los Angeles. His works in this theme focus on the architecture and figures within this setting. Later, after World Was II, he became interested in Southwestern landscapes and portraits.
As Weisman developed within the school of the California Style, his colors became more saturated and brighter. Many of Weisman’s images also documented the scenes of industrial development and the people who fueled this system at work. An example of his contribution to this specific subject is his work, Rolling Steel. In his late works, Weisman’s lines became more defined and his palette moved away from the attempt to depict soft Californian light and cool colors, marking the move toward a more Realist depiction of shapes.
Throughout his career, Weisman worked within the California Regionalist style, with emphasis in specific urban areas and societal subgroups, characteristic of the California scene. The influence of his teacher and the environment cultivated at the Chouinard Institute set the foundation for his development in the California tradition of watercolors. His career focus that remained consistent throughout his stylistic changes was a focus on social realism in developing California, although the particulars of his method of depiction evolved with time, as his technique moves away from the Impressionistic style, becoming more Realist. Weisman’s late work was primarily through privately commissioned portraits and murals.