Louis Schanker Biography

Louis Schanker




Louis Schanker, painter, printmaker, muralist, sculptor and teacher, was born in New York City on July 20, 1903, to parents of Romanian descent. In 1919, he was enrolled in night classes at Cooper Union. The following year he left New York and for two years he lived a vagrant lifestyle, living off odd jobs. He rode the rails, joined the circus, worked as a thresher in the wheat field of the Great Plains and as a ship fitter in the Federal Ship Yard. He became homesick for the East and took a job as coal stoker on a streamer. Back in New York he returned to classes at the Educational Alliance and the Art Students’ League.

Schanker spent 1931 and 1932 in Europe traveling and studying at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere in Paris. When he returned to New York, he found his work to be greatly influenced by the abstract and cubist inspired work of his European counterparts. He protested against the Whitney Museum’s unwillingness to show abstract art and he became a founding member of the American Abstract Artists and participated in its first annual exhibition in 1937.

In 1935, Schanker explored the medium of the woodcut, melding his ideas for sculpture and colors. Later in the same decade he worked on mural projects for the Federal Works Progress Administration and was made director of the graphic arts division of the WPA in New York City.

During the 1943-1944 session, Schanker taught printmaking at the New School for Social Research in New York City where his students shared their studio with Stanley William Hayter’s Atelier 17. In 1947, Schanker organized his own experimental workshop at the New School that he coined Studio 74. He was hired to teach at Bard College in 1949 and remained until his retirement.

Schanker's work is represented in the collections of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the Addison Gallery of American Art, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, the Asheville Art Museum, the Museum of Fine Art Boston, the Brooklyn Museum, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Metropolitan Museum, the National Gallery of Art, the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Worcester Art Museum.

Louis Schanker died May 7, 1981, at the age of seventy-eight.