Dan Lutz Biography

Shady Pasture, 1961

18 x 14 inches  |  oil on canvas

Daniel Stookey Lutz was born in Decatur, Illinois on July 7, 1906 to Florence Stookey and Samuel Milton Lutz, who owned a music store in Decatur. The muses were plentiful in the young artist's life: his father was a noted violinist and his mother a fine watercolorist and occasional painter. He was aware of his passion for art at an early age. He came of age in the Roaring 20s but he matured, as the country did, under the pressures of the Great Depression. He was twenty-three when the stock market fell in the fall of 1929. Fortunately for Lutz, he had already commenced his studies at Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) when the panic of Black Thursday occurred.

After four years of studies at the AIC, Dan Lutz received the James Nelson Raymond Traveling Fellowship in 1931. This allowed the young artist a full year of travel in Europe, primarily in France. Very few, if any, paintings have survived from either his student days or from this early European travel. In the fall of 1932 Lutz returned to Chicago where he married Dorothy Best, with whom he would spend the rest of his life. Later that year Lutz came to Los Angeles, California. He finished his formal training at the University of Southern California (USC) and received a Bachelor in Fine Arts degree.

For the next forty years Lutz would make his way in life as a professional artist. His work received local and national recognition and he was beginning to be noticed in Europe when he suffered a stroke and was forced to retire. He had numerous one-person exhibitions, received awards and was recognized as one of California's leading lights in the artistic community. As the exclusive representative of the artist's estate Sullivan Goss is proud to offer works from every era of the artist's career in nearly all media: oil, acrylic, watercolor, and pen and ink.

Videos

3:13 | Narrated by Nathan Vonk | Released for Dan Lutz, Original Expression, 2014

2:15  |  Narrated by Jeremy Tessmer  |  Released for L.A. in S.B., 2017

6:05  |  Narrated by Jeremy Tessmer  |  Released for The Art of Santa Barbara: 1875-2016, 2016

4:07  |  Narrated by Frank Goss  |  Released for Picturing Old Spanish Days, 2016

3:33  |  Narrated by Jeremy Tessmer  |  Released for Celebrating 30 Years of Art, 2016

3:14  |  Narrated by Frank Goss  |  Released for Las Pinturas de la Fiesta, 2014

3:48  |  Narrated by Jeremy Tessmer  |  Released for elemental: WATER, 2012

4:02  |  Narrated by Jeremy Tessmer  |  Released for L.A.'s RISEN, 2011

3:20  |  Narrated by Frank Goss  |  Released for Sunrise & Sunset, 2011

4:28  |  Narrated by Frank Goss  |  Released for AMERICANS AT PLAY, 2010

5:19  |  Narrated by Jeremy Tessmer  |  Released for L.A. NOIR, 2009

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AN ANALYSIS OF THE ARTIST'S WORK

After graduating in 1932 Lutz turned to teaching to supplement his income as an artist. The country was still recovering from the Depression. For nearly ten years he taught at USC and during World War II moved to teach at the cross-town rival for artistic talent, Chouinard Art School. While on the staff at Chouinard, he served as a visiting instructor at the AIC.

1930s

As an artist, Lutz was mercurial. His development was so rapid during the 1930s that as soon as critics had developed a jargon for the work he was doing, they would find that his style had changed and their comments were no longer applicable. While working in watercolor in 1930s, he developed an individual technique using bright, opaque colors. In the Scene Painting or Regionalist period in 1930s Los Angeles, his style separated him from his friends and associates, who included Rex Brandt, Milford Zornes, Phil Dyke, George Post, Paul Sample and Millard Sheets. Gordon McClelland and Jay Last in their book The California Style (1985) believe it was Lutz' early development of technique that "led to works different from those of any of his West Coast contemporaries."

1940s

From the beginning of the 1940s until he had a stroke in 1971 was the artist's great period. During this time his work became increasingly individualistic. The artist's neice Annette Lutz Sutherland recalls that when he painted he had "a tremendous ability to concentrate to the exclusion of all other things." She commented that his paintings were "how he saw the world and he would paint whether the paintings would have financial merit or not." The artist's work of the 1930s is grounded in the American Scene Painting School and has some sympathy with the work of the great Social Realists, especially in the depiction of scenes portraying class struggle like Lutz's Wait'in For the St'eet Car, which was completed in 1941. 

The 1940s saw a maturation of his style. Now working in both oil and watercolor, the artist sought out scenes of day-to-day urban life. It was during this period that Lutz began his nearly twenty-five year experimentation with lithography.

There is a distinct transition from the Scene Painting work of the 1930s to a reductive style with more limited topics. In the early 1940s Lutz was recording the lives of inner city Los Angelenos of African descent, depicting nightclub patrons, jazz muscians and men, women and children going about their daily lives. It was in the middle 1940s that Dan Lutz' paintings took on a more somber cast. The figures moved forward in his canvases until sometimes the painter was only dealing with the head and upper torso.

During this darker period, darker perhaps in response to the tragedies of World War II, his figures became distended and sometimes freakish. Black was the dominant color. Relatives of the artist recall that this was a very troubled period for the artist and that at one point in 1945 he sought help for his difficulties, spending a short time in a sanitarium. Annette Sutherland recalls that after this period there were times when "he became withdrawn and would not talk to anyone."

However, by the end of the 1940s Lutz' canvases broke away from featured paintings which used greens, yellows, browns and a sparing application of white.

1950s

In this period Lutz continued to develop his focus on color. The pictorial content of his paintings diminished. His canvases and watercolors from the 1950s contain less "storytelling" than his earlier work, and the social messages contained in his art of the 30s and 40s are no longer in evidence. During the 1950s the artist began to rely increasingly on contrasting intensified colors which are packed with an immediate emotional content. Representation is less important for the artist than rhythm and energy. Geometric form and human figures are still present in Lutz' work of this period, but their focus is softened. During the 1960s and on into the beginning 1970s the artist would sketch in watercolor in the plein air style. He would then convert the watercolor to an oil or acrylic on canvas. There was a time when the Mexican border guards would not allow Lutz to take his Mexican work out of Mexico. His solution was to photograph the topic and paint it when he returned to California.

In the 1950s Lutz developed in two distinct directions. His trips to the midwest generated a body of work sometimes coined his "green paintings," but at the same time he made numerous trips to Mexico and produced a body of work in which he made use of the primary colors employed by Mexican village people at the time, colors which are coincidentally used in the Mexican flag. Where the Midwestern paintings are covered in a loosely woven and interlocking shapes, the Mexican works use a broad, planar geometry to express the organic feeling of old Mexican villages.

1960s

Although Lutz worked briefly in the 1970s, it was the 1960s sixties work that represents his most advanced development as an artist. The imaginative, dream and spiritual elements of Lutz' style, all of which are present in work as early as 1940, evolved into the most powerful element of his art.

 

COLLECTIONS

Metropolitan Museum of New York
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
San Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco
De Young Museum of Art, San Francisco
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, California
Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego, San Diego, California
Pasadena Museum of Art, Pasadena, California
La Jolla Art Center, La Jolla, California
Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach, California
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago
City Art Museum of St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri
William Rickhill Nelson Museum, Kansas City, Missouri
Phillips Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C.
Georgia Museum of Art, Athens, Georgia
Fransworth Art Museum, Rockland, Maine
Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis, Tennessee
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, Washington
Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, Washington
Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, Arizona
Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Witte Memorial Museum, San Antonio, Texas
Bente & Gerald Buck Collection, Laguna Niguel, California
Fieldstone Collection, Newport Beach & San Diego, California
WIM Collection, Linda & James Ries, Encino, California
Grant-Munger Collection, San Diego, California
Sally & David Martin Collection, Santa Barbara, California
Kathleen & Paul Bagley Collection, Princeton, New Jersey

 

EVOLUTION OF THE ARTIST'S THEMES

Throughout Lutz' artistic career was a series of themes which unfolded. Some of these are defined by subject matter, in which cases the theme represents a brief period of the artist's career. Other motifs are much more deeply imbedded in the artist's character and these leitmotiv recurr throughout much of the artist's career.

1. Regionalist, Scene Painting, Social Realism, 1940s - 1950s
2. Provincial Paintings, Mexico, New Zealand, Montana, Colorado
3. Still Lifes 1950s - 1960s
4. Paintings of the Midwest
5. Fantasy, Surreal, Spiritual & Religious 1940s - 1950s
6. Nudes & Figurative Works
6. Musicians and Music

 

CHRONOLOGY

1927  Studied at James Milikin University, Decatur, IL
1928-1931  Studied at Chicago Institute of Art
1931-1932  Traveling Fellowship, Studied with Andre L'Hote.
1932-1938  Member Fine Arts Faculty, University of Southern California
1932  Married Dorothy A. Best & moved to California
1933  Received B.F.A. Degree, University of Southern California
1938  Guest Instructor at AIC
1938 -1942  Head of Painting Department, USC
1940 -1945  Summer Painting Instructor, Saugatuck, Michigan, division AIC
1944 -1952  Painting Instructor, Chouinard Art Institute, Los Angeles
1946 -1953  Guest Instructor, San Antonio Art Institute, Texas
1951 -1953  Summer Painting Instructor, Saugatuck, Michigan, Division AIC
1952 -1957  Traveled & painted through Georgia; Montana; Gaspe Peninsula, Quebec, Canada; and Oaxaca, Mexico
1954  Dan Lutz Summer School, Munsing, Michigan
1955  Guest Artist, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia
1955 -1971  Devoted himself to painting in his studio, exhibitions, sketching and studying in museums. Continued
to travel throughout the U.S., Mexico, Europe and New Zealand.
1971  Suffered a stroke that left the artist partially paralyzed
1978  Died November 10th in Santa Barbara, CA

EXHIBITIONS

2004  "In Search of America", Sullivan Goss, Ltd., Santa Barbara, CA

2004  "Bold Expressions", Sullivan Goss, Ltd., Santa Barbara, CA

2003  "The 8th Annual Small Images Show", Sullivan Goss, Ltd., Santa Barbara, CA

2002  "Passages", Sullivan Goss, Ltd., Santa Barbara, CA

2002  "The History of the Nude in Art in California", Sullivan Goss, Ltd., Santa Barbara, CA

2001  Sullivan Goss, Ltd., Santa Barbara, CA

1988  Arlington Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA

1985  Arlington Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA

1984  Heritage Gallery, Los Angeles

1984  Southam Gallery, Salt Lake City, UT

1983  Gallery de Silva, Santa Barbara, CA

1972  Kirkland Fine Arts Center, Decature, IL

1971  Esther Bear Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA

1969  Esther Bear Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA

1965  Milch Galleries, New York, NY

1957  Pasadena Art Museum, Pasadena, CA

1954  Milch Gallieries, New York, NY

1947  De Young Museum, San Francisco

1947  Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA

1946  Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA

1945  Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA

1942  Pasadena Art Museum, Pasadena, CA

1942  Witte Memorial Museum, San Antonio, TX

1942  Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles

1940-1972  Approximately 25 one-person exhibitions with Lutz' primary dealer, Dalzell Hatfield Galleries

1940  Ferargill Gallery, New York, NY

1939  Contemporary Arts Gallery, New York, NY

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