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JOSEPH WEISMAN

(1907-1994)

CALIFORNIA REGIONALIST & PORTRAITIST

Ruby K. Todd

Weisman’s work is characterized by his attention to everyday life in California. His emphasis on social realism, and his stylistic development was in accordance with the general trajectory of the California tradition in the early twentieth century. Weisman was influential in documenting various California landmarks and also as an educator in Los Angeles during the later part of his life.




Table of Contents

I. BIOGRAPHY

Joseph Weisman was born on February 17, 1907 in Schenectady, New York, and spent his early years in Cleveland, Ohio. In the early 1920s, when he was still a child, his family moved to Los Angeles, California. He graduated from Hollywood High School and attended the Chouinard Art Institute located in Los Angeles from 1925 to 1929. For the remainder of his life, he would continue to be an active part of Chouinard, which later merged with the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music and was renamed the California Institute of the Arts. Weisman also attended classes at the Art Center School, located in Los Angeles. The artists early style was influenced by the group with whom he studied, which included Millard Sheets and Clarence Hinkle at the Chouinard Art Institute, as well as Barse Miller and Stanley Reckless at the Art Center School.

During World War II, Weisman did technical illustration for the Douglas Aircraft Company. He also worked as a matte shot artist in the scene department of MGM, 20th Century Fox and Warner Brothers Studios between 1946 and 1949. This was a common career choice for artists during the Great Depression and World War II, when work was scarce. Many artists living and working in southern California decided to enter the film industry, contributing to the era of the classic animation films.

In the early 1950s, Joseph Weisman’s primary profession became that of a teacher. For most of the 1950s and 1960s, Weisman worked in adult education at the Hollywood Art Center School and throughout the public Los Angeles City Adult School System. After his retirement, he worked privately as both an educator and an artist. He continued to execute private commissions for murals in restaurants and churches in the Los Angeles area until his death in 1994.

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.

III. CHRONOLOGY

  • 1907 Born in Schenectady, NY (Feb. 17)
  • 1925-1929 Attends Chouinard Art Institute
  • 1930s Joined California Watercolor Society
  • 1932-1936 California State Fare (prize)
  • 1939 California State Fair (prize)
  • 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition
  • 1945-1955 Instructor at Hollywood AC School
  • 1946-1949 Matte Shot Artist at MGM, 20th Century Fox and Warner Brothers Studios
  • 1954 Joins Los Angeles Board of Education
  • Late 1960s Retires from teaching in the Los Angeles City Adult School System
  • 1994 Dies is Los Angeles, California (September 19)
  • IV. COLLECTIONS

  • The Air Force Art Collection
  • V. EXHIBITIONS

  • 1929-1931 Los Angeles County Fair
  • 1930 LACMA
  • 1930-1933 California Water Color Society
  • 1930-1938 Painters and Sculptors of Los Angeles
  • 1930-1938 Laguna Beach Art Association
  • 1930-1931 San Diego FA Society
  • 1932-1936 California State Fair
  • 1932 Art Center School, Los Angeles
  • 1933-1938 Oakland Art Gallery
  • 1933 LACMA
  • 1933-1938 Santa Cruz Art Lg.
  • 1936 Los Angeles County Fair
  • 1936-1937 Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
  • 1936-1938 Oakland Art Gallery
  • 1937-1938 Los Angeles County Museum of Art
  • 1937 Santa Paula Chamber of Commerce
  • 1938 Los Angeles County Fair
  • 1938 Laguna Beach Art Association
  • 1939 California State Fair
  • 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition
  • 1943 Pasadena Art Institute
  • 1944 Santa Barbara Museum of Art
  • 1945-1946 Los Angeles Art Association
  • 1945 Santa Paula, California
  • 1953 Los Angeles Art Association
  • 1955 Madonna Festival
  • 1987 Santa Barbara Museum of Art
  • 1988-1989 Downey (CA) Museum
  • 2008 Santa Barbara Historical Museum
  • Dayton Art Institute
  • Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
  • Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art
  • VI. MEMBERSHIPS

  • California Watercolor Association
  • Los Angeles Art Association
  • P&S Los Angeles
  • California Water Color Society
  • Laguna Beach Art Association
  • American Federation of Arts
  • San Diego Fine Art Society
  • VII. AWARDS

  • 1936 California State Fair- 2nd Prize
  • 1939 California State Fair - 3rd Prize
  • 1940 California State Fair- 1st Prize
  • VIII. Bibliography

    1. 1. Biography from AskART. AskART. http://www.AskART/artists/biography.aspx?artist=6954 November 9, 2008.
    2. 2. Biography from William A Karges Fine Art – Beverly Hills. AskART. http://www.AskART/artists/biography.aspx?artist=6954 November 9, 2008.
    3. 3. California Watercolor. About the California Style. http://californiawatercolor.com/files/t_16612_01.jpg
    4. 4. “California Scene Painters (1935-1950)”. American Art Review. September/October 1973.
    5. 5. Falk, Peter Hastings. Ed. Who Was Who in American Art 1564-1975: 400 Years of American Artists. Vol. 3. Sound View Press: Madison, CT. 1999.
    6. 6. Life in California: 1930-1959: Scene Paintings from the Sally and David Martin Collection. Santa Barbara Historical Museum, Santa Barbara, California. September 25, 2008- January 19, 2009.
    7. 7. Nelson, Ronald C. California Seen: Landscapes of a Changing California, 1930-1970. Long Beach Museum of Art. October 14, 2008.

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